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Banditry: Military to focus on sources of arms supply, beam Searchlight on Foreigners; deactivates illegal refineries with 402,000 liters of AGO

Against the backdrop of discoveries of how foreigners now disguise and ferry arms and ammunition into the country for bandits, terrorists and other criminal gangs in the country, the Defence headquarters said Thursday that the armed forces will now focus its searchlight on foreigners, both those already in the country and those coming in, to halt the supply chain.

In this regard, the military has appealed to Nigerians particularly those living in communities bordering the country’s neighbours to remain vigilant and pass information to security agencies when they notice the untoward action of arms movement by foreigners.

Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche who made the disclosure in Abuja, said it is against this backdrop that troops of Operation Sahel Sanity deployed at Forward Operating Base Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State on 15 August 2020, after an undercover operation successfully smashed a notorious illegal arms smuggling syndicate who specialize in massive arms supply to bandits in the North West from across the international borders.

“Three suspects all Nigerien citizens were intercepted at Dantudu in Mailailai District of Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State with 6 AK 47 Rifles, 3 AK 47 Rifle magazines and 2,415 rounds of 7.62mm Special ammunition concealed in various parts of their vehicle. It therefore goes to show that some of the security challenges in the country have external influence. The suspects are currently in custody undergoing preliminary investigation before being handed over to the prosecuting agency”.

Meanwhile, 14 armed bandits were killed in the last one week by troops after several gunfire fights in the North West zone.

Furthermore, Gen Enenche disclosed how a gun fight with some terrorists along Pulka-Firgi road in Borno led to the discovery of 36 hand grenades and IED making materials which would have been used to commit havoc against innocent citizens.

Also, in the fight against oil theft and illegal bunkering, he said several illegal refineries were discovered in the Niger Delta with over 402, 000 liters of AGO operations and 1,509 barrels of stolen crude which were all deactivated.

Giving an update of armed forces operations to rid the nation of criminal elements across the country in the last one week, the Coordinator said, “In the North East zone, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole have continued to exhibit sustained resilience in the fight against terrorism in the North East zone of the Country. During the period troops successfully conducted aggressive clearance operations and dominated the theatres of operation, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole conducted comprehensive precision strikes, to mark the launching of its subsidiary Operation Hail Storm.

“Several air interdiction operations were conducted at identified Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) targets in the Lake Chad and Sambisa Forest areas of Borno State.

“These attacks were conducted at Tumbuma Baba, on 16 August 2020, one of the Island settlements on the fringes of the Lake Chad.

“Additionally, the logistics facilities of BHT at Bukar Meram on the fringes of the Lake Chad were also destroyed on 17 August 2020.

“The attack on the locations scored devastating hits on the settlement, killing not fewer than 20 terrorists and destroying their structures.

“Several BHT and ISWAP commanders were also killed and some of their dwellings destroyed at Boboshe, a village along the river line on the eastern part of the Sambisa Forest.

“Meanwhile, troops of Army Super Camp 9, on 16 August 2020, engaged BHTs and ISWAP elements during clearance operations at Dikwa LGA of Borno State.

“During the operation, 2 terrorists were neutralized while one AK 47 rifle and 8 rounds of 7.62mm (special) were recovered.

“Similarly, troops of Strong Response Area, Pulka while on a fighting patrol, encountered and engaged BHTs/ISWAP elements along Road Pulka-Firgi-Banki Junction in Gwoza LGA of Borno State.

“In the process, a terrorist was neutralized while 2 fully loaded AK 47 rifles, two 36 hand grenades, one motorcycle and IED materials were recovered by the troops.

 “Similarly, troops of 144 Battalion on ambush operation encountered and engaged BHTs/ISWAP elements at Wagga Mangoro and Wagga Lawal in the same LGA.

“The terrorists fled due to superior fire power of the troops. In another encounter troops of 151 Task Force Battalion neutralized 2 terrorists along Road Banki-Pulka in Bama LGA of Borno State.   

“Deducing from these results within the period, it is clear that, troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria are resolute in their endeavor to end the BHT/ISWAP menace in the North East.

“In continuation of intensive clearance operation in the North-West zone of the country, troops of Operation Sahel Sanity, in a combined special clearance operation, destroyed 12 bandit camps at Yobe Baranda in Batsari LGA of Katsina State.

“Three armed bandits were also neutralized in the process while others escaped with various degrees of gunshot wounds.

“Equally, troops of Operation Sahel Sanity deployed at Forward Operating Base Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State on 15 August 2020 after an undercover operation successfully smashed a notorious illegal arms smuggling syndicate who specialize in massive arms supply to bandits in the North West from across the international borders.

“The three suspects all Nigerien citizens were intercepted at Dantudu in Mailailai District of Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State with 6 AK 47 Rifles, 3 AK 47 Rifle magazines and 2,415 rounds of 7.62mm Special ammunition concealed in various parts of their vehicle.

“It therefore goes to show that some of the security challenges in the country have external influence. The suspects are currently in custody undergoing preliminary investigation before being handed over to the prosecuting agency.

 “These successes recorded within the period are evident of the troop’s determination, resilience and commitment to end the security challenges bedeviling the North West zone.

Farming, social and economic activities are once again flourishing in the North West zone. Interestingly, a total of 14 bandits were killed from this zone of the country for the period reviewed.  

In the South-South zone, Enenche said, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder patrol team, under Operation Delta Safe, discovered an illegal refining site at Okorosa Creek. The site had a reservoir laden with an estimated 943.47 barrels of product suspected to be crude oil. The site was deactivated.

“Similarly, on 14 August 2020, another site was discovered at Yalama community in Akokoturo LGA Rivers State. The site, which had 2 metal reservoirs laden with an estimated 150,000 liters of illegally refined AGO, was deactivated.

“Relatedly, personnel of Nigerian Navy Ship Delta deployed on-board the Ocean Marine Solutions Houseboat along Yeye Creek in Burutu LGA of Delta State visited a previously deactivated Illegal Refining Site around Fonkro Community. The site was observed to have been reactivated and had 6 ovens, 7 surface metal storage tanks and 3 dugout pits cumulatively laden with about 120,000 litres of product suspected to be illegally refined AGO and 566.08 barrels of product suspected to be stolen crude oil.

“The storage facilities and product were dismantled while the site was earmarked for swamp buggy operation.

“Additionally, on 15 Aug 2020, at Ikpemu Community along Jones Creek in Warri South LGA of Delta State, the patrol team intercepted and impounded a large wooden boat laden with about 132,000 litres of products suspected to be illegally refined AGO.

“In the North-Central zone, troops of Operations Safe Haven, Thunder-Strike and Whirl Stroke conducted several ambushes, raids and clearance patrols at various locations in the zone.

“Notably, on 13 August 2020, troops of Operation Safe Haven intercepted and nabbed 5 suspected armed robbers at a snap checkpoint established at Makera. The suspects were arrested along with a red Vectra car with registration number Plateau BF-335-JJN used in perpetrating their heinous crimes.

“The criminals confessed to be members of a syndicate who specialize in robbing unsuspecting passengers along the highways. The suspects are being profiled after which they will be handed over to the Nigeria Police for further action.

“Troops also apprehended 2 armed robbers following credible intelligence report on their activities in Rukkaya village of Mavo district in Wase LGA of Plateau State.

Additionally, the Air Component of Operation Thunder Strike equally neutralized several armed bandits at their camp in the Kuduru Forest area of Kaduna State on 13 August 2020.

“The feat was achieved through air strikes carried out on the heels of intelligence reports indicating the convergence of members of an Ansaru Terrorist Sect-linked bandits group, led by one Mallam Abba, at the location.

“Aerial surveillance missions conducted over the area also observed some bandits, wielding weapons in the forest. Several of the bandits were killed as the attack aircraft strafed the area, while others attempting to escape were mopped-up in follow-on attacks.

“Meanwhile, troops of Nigerian Navy Ship Lugard stationed at Olamaboro LGA of Kogi State, on 15 August 2020 arrested 2 suspected armed bandits. The arrests were made at Abarkponi Guest House in Okpo Community of Olamaboro LGA following a tip-off.

“Items recovered from the suspects include a service pistol, charms and GSM handsets. The suspects and recovered items were handed over to the Nigeria Police for further investigation and prosecution.

Relatedly, on 18 August 2020, troops of Sector 2 Operation Whirl Stroke acting on credible intelligence on the location of a hideout being used by some armed militia linked to wanted Benue militia leader Terwase Akwaza aka Gana around Abaji in Katsina Ala LGA of Benue State, swiftly conducted a dawn raid operation on the identified hideout popularly known as small London located at Amafu village.

Contact was made with the armed militia men, troops swiftly responded with superior fire forcing them to flee in disarray into the surrounding forest. One of the wanted kingpins, Mr Atsor AKA ‘Smallie’ was neutralized during the encounter while others escaped. Troops recovered one AK 47 rifle and 17 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition during the operation. 

“As part of Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities, Headquarters Operation SAFE HAVEN on 12 August 2020 commissioned a total of 6 hand pump boreholes at various communities in Plateau State.

“Three of the boreholes were commissioned at Mazat, a Fulani community in Barkin Ladi LGA of Plateau State, Mungi and Shimilang communities in Mangu LGA. The other 3 boreholes were commissioned at 332 AR barracks (the location of FOB Shendam) and Kuka and Aningo villages in Shendam LGA of Plateau State. The projects were part of Operation Safe Haven CIMIC activities aimed at enhancing cordial relations with host communities in the state towards achieving total peace on the Plateau.

“Furthermore, Headquarters Operation Safe Haven also held stakeholders meeting with Fulani leaders at Gidan Ado, as well as Maiyanga, Hura, Zirishe and Dundu community leaders, all in Riyom LGA Plateau State. Similarly, meetings were held with JNI (Jama’atu Nasril Islam) and CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) leaders in Barkin Ladi LGA, and also with community leaders at Fadan Karshi village in Sanga LGA of Kaduna State.”

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