•23 arrested, 14 guns, ammunition recovered
By Enyeribe Ejiogu
Five militants were yesterday killed in a raid carried out by units of the 133 Special Forces Battalion of the Nigerian Army, in Rivers State as a test-run of Operation Crocodile Smile, a military option designed to rid the Niger Delta of criminal activities and end the bombing campaign against oil and gas infrastructure in the region.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, confirmed the killing of suspected militants while addressing troops in Sapele, Delta State.
In the course of the military exercise to train troops in preparation for fullscale commencement of Operation Crocodile Smile, the Special Forces attacked a camp run by the militants. In the ensuing gun battle, the five militants were shot dead, while numerous others were injured and 23 suspects arrested.
Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman who gave further details in a press statement made available to Sunday Sun said that items recovered from the camps include 2 AK-47 rifles, 11 pump action rifle, a locally made revolver pistol, 292 cartridges of live ammunition, 199 rounds of AK-47 rifle ammunition, 4 electricity generating sets and a camp gas cooker. The troops, he said, also recovered an abandoned outboard engine boat left by the fleeing militants.
While advising the troops as the countdown to start off full military activities under Operation Crocodile Smile continues, Buratai told the soldiers: “As you move into the creeks to conduct the exercise, I urge you to be professional in your conduct and clear any obstacle interfering with your job. “Your colleagues in Rivers in the same exercise are doing well; yesterday evening they cleared a camp of the militants and recovered a large cache of arms. Some arrests were made while a number of the attackers who had attempted to interfere with the exercise were killed.
You have to take a cue from them and be responsive as you move into the surrounding creeks.”
The Army Chief urged the troops to respect the rights of members of the communities while discharging their duties, urging them not to spare any criminal found in the creeks.
He reminded them that the training was an exercise cum operation geared at recovering the nation’s economic base and restoring normalcy in the region.
He assured the troops of government’s commitment to improve their lots during the operation as well as the general welfare of soldiers and officers.
He cautioned them on the need to minimize collateral damage during the exercise, noting that the lives of citizens as well as critical national assets located in the area were important.
Speaking earlier during a courtesy call, Buratai used the occasion of his courtesy visit to the Olu of Warri, Godfrey Ikenwoli to reassure the residents of the city and its environs that no law abiding citizen would be harmed in the course of the exercise.
He said that the troops had been directed to conduct the exercise strictly on established rules designed to protect the rights of citizens.
Buratai pledged the Army’s continuous partnership with the civil populace to ensure a safer society.