Ijaw militants kill Naval officer, 3 ratings

  • Friday, July 14, 2006 - NAPOLEON EHIREMEN, Warri and DENNIS NAKU, Yenagoa
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FOUR military personnel, including a Navy Commander, were yesterday confirmed killed in Channomi creek, Warri South West local government Area of Delta State in a renewed onslaught by militant Ijaw youths against the military in Niger Delta.

The Navy commander identified as K. Ajunwa and three ratings – E. Egwu, Mohammed Ibera and M. Alfa, were part of a patrol team who were escorting some materials and vessel belonging to American oil firm, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) to Escravos Wednesday night when their boat was attacked by the militants who brandished sophisticated weapons, killing the occupants.

Elsewhere in Twon Brass, Bayelsa State, two separate explosions, allegedly carried out by militants, rocked pipelines conveying crude oil to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) terminal forcing the firm to cut short supply at the terminal off the Atlantic coast.

Commander of the Military Joint Task Force, Brig.-Gen. Alfred Ilogho confirmed the killings in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Warri.

He said, "We lost one officer and three ratings."

Chevron has however announced the release yesterday of its operations vessel hijacked by the militants on its way to Escravos.

Company spokesman, Mr. Deji Haastrup, told Daily Champion on telephone that the vessel seized in a bloody attack on Wednesday was released in the early hours of yesterday.

He said the working vessel had been attacked along the Channomi creek and hijacked with those on board, adding that all were later released.

He declined comments on the death of military personnel killed during the attack, saying the company was in no position to confirm anything on government’s security operations.

Cheveron, he said, is happy that the vessel and its passengers were released very quickly, adding that the company was monitoring the situation.

Mr. Haastrup could not also confirm there was any disruption on production following the incident.

The attack on Chevron, Daily Champion reports, is the latest in the wave of attacks on the Nigerian oil industry by restive local militants pressing for resource control.

Meanwhile, explosions allegedly carried out by suspected militants Tuesday night rocked Nigerian Agip Oil cutting its supply in Bayelsa State.

The first explosion recorded was an 18 inches pipeline at the Clough Creek delivery line from the Tebidaba flowstation which resulted into a massive oil spillage around the Akassa axis in the Brass Local Government area of the state.

Daily Champion gathered that the incident occurred about 9pm the second spill caused by explosion involving a 10inch pipeline at Lagosgbene in Igbomatoru, Southern Ijaw local government area near the River Nun sources said has forced the Italian Oil giant to shut in huge barrels to prevent the spill from spreading to other areas.

Contacted on phone Thursday, the state Commissioner for police, Alhaji Hafiz Ringim confirmed the incident and noted that it may have been an act of sabotage, but no arrest has been made.

Similarly, Special Adviser to the state governor on Oil and Gas, Chief Dikivie Ikiogha, also told Daily Champion that his bureau was still trying to contact the company to ascertain the extent of damage; even as he comfirmed the second explosion, saying it involves a 10 inch oil pipeline at Lagosgbene.

According to him, the devastated line is also conveying crude oil from the Tebidaba flow station to the Brass terminal owned by Agip.

Condemning the incident Chief Ikiogha, stated that if really it is confirmed that it was an act of sabotage , government would not hesitate to bring the perpetrators to book, adding that such actions are unacceptable, especially when youths mistake criminality to the Niger Delta struggle without considering the danger it poses to the environment.

Ikiogha stated that government would assist the affected oil firm to get the immediate and remote causes of the incident; while it would embark on an aggressive enlightenment campaign to sensitize the youths on the dangers of incessant spill to the environment.

An official of Agip who pleaded anonymity confirmed the incident said the spill was caused by explosion wrecked on it facility by those he describe as vandals and saboteurs.

Investigation revealed that the militants also tried to subdue the soldiers who were riding on a separate boat but because the boat was bullet proof they could not succeed in penetrating that thereby restricting the casualty to the Navy personnel.

The militants, after the attack, seized two gun boats belonging to the Task Force and also cornered 11 vessels to their headquarters at Okerenkoko where most of the materials are reportedly abandoned.

Also the remains of the soldiers have been received at the NNS Delta by the commander of the base, Capt. Mufutau Ajibade, attempt to speak to the commanding officer proved abortive as he was said to be in a security meeting.

This latest incident is coming on the heel of the visit of the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Azazi who is on a two-day visit to Delta State to assess the level of preparedness of the military in the area.

An Ijaw source has blamed the military for the incident as he said the attack was a response to the incessant attack by the military on the Ijaw communities.

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