Ongoing Exercise not military occupation of South East, says Nigerian Army

-Commended troops for modest successes recorded so far

The Nigerian Army has said, ongoing deployment of troops for Exercises in parts of the country are not aimed at occupying any part of the country but designed to fish out criminal elements terrorizing peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the country.

Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu disclosed this Monday while briefing newsmen on the ongoing activities of the Nigerian Army across the country.

He noted that the Nigerian Army as a professional force is committed to the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians irrespective of tribes and religious affiliation.

”It is crucial to dispel the unfounded narrative that the ongoing exercises are aimed at the military occupation of the South East. Contrary to this insinuation, the deployment of troops of the Nigerian Army is not only in South-East Nigeria but also in the troubled parts of the country, particularly in the North West and North Eastern Nigeria where troops are conducting major operations to tackle more threatening national security challenges”. He said.

On Exercise Golden Dawn, while reacting to the incident which occurred at Izombe Community of Oguta LGA of Imo state which was characterized by arson and wanton destruction of properties by members of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

General Nwachukwu said, ”At about 9 am on Friday 8 October 2021, troops of Ex GOLDEN DAWN Sector B received a distress call regarding the criminal activities of one Chukwunonso Iherue, a convict who was among the escapees from the Owerri Correctional Centre on 5 April 2021.

”Iherue was armed with a pistol and was threatening, intimidating and inciting persons in the Izombe community to support the proscribed IPOB terrorist group.

”The late Chukwunonso Iherue masterminded the attack on Izombe Divisional Police Headquarters on 14 May 2021, during which four of his gang members were neutralized. Similarly, he masterminded the attack on the same Police Divisional Headquarters on 13 Aug 2021 where 3 policemen paid the supreme price.

Again on the 1st October 2021, Iherue and his gang members were seen parading Izombe Community, flying the Biafra insignia while threatening and instilling fear in the people, thereby creating tension in the community. When troops attempted to arrest him, he escaped with the help of some persons. Since then, troops have kept a close watch and have been on his trail. On receipt of the distress call, troops deployed to the scene and attempted to apprehend the suspect.

The criminal was neutralized as he engaged the troops with fire from his pistol in a frantic attempt to escape.

”Youths in the community then mobilized a large number of suspected IPOB members armed with automatic weapons, and bearing IPOB insignia. The group opened fire on its own troops, killing two soldiers in the process. In an effort to avoid civilian casualty and collateral damage in the community, troops tactically withdrew from the area. Unfortunately, the suspected IPOB members ran amok, setting ablaze houses and other properties belonging to those perceived to be against them.

”Consequently, a reinforcement team was deployed to Izombe and the security situation was immediately stabilized, while peace has since returned to the community. It was however observed on arrival at the community that the criminal gang also burnt own troops Hilux van in addition to other public and private properties.

”In another development, troops of Sector 5 conducting Exercise GOLDEN DAWN deployed in Anambra state, neutralized 3 IPOB gunmen who attacked a Nigerian Police checkpoint along Okija-Onitsha expressway on 7 October 2021. On sighting own troops, the criminals attempted to flee the scene. Troops however pursued them, and engaged the assailants in a gun duel. The 3 gunmen, who drove in 2 vehicles (a Hilux and Hummer bus), eventually succumbed to troops’ effective firepower, while others fled.

”Troops recovered one vehicle and 2 motorcycles, while conducting further exploitation of the general area for the fleeing terrorists.

On Thursday 21 October 2021, troops foiled an attack by gunmen suspected to be members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra/Eastern Security Network at Arochukwu Correctional Facility, Abia State.

”The gunmen numbering about thirty had earlier marched across the town firing in the air while flying their flag. They also attacked own troops, but were overpowered during the shootout. Consequently, five of them were neutralised, while others escaped with gunshot wounds. Items recovered from the gunmen include pump action rifles, two motorcycles, cutlasses, flags of outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra and four cell phones.” He added.

Recall that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya on October 4th, 2021 flagged off Exercises STILL WATERS, ENDURING PEACE and GOLDEN DAWN in the South-South, South-West, North-Central and South-East zones respectively.

On the whole, General Nwachukwu on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, commended troops for the modest successes recorded so far and urged them to sustain the tempo in order to decisively curtail the activities of criminals across the country.

He further called on troops to remain professional, vigilant and exhibit utmost respect for the Human Rights of citizens in their respective Areas of Responsibilities.

*Additional reports by National Star

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