150 killed in Nige­rian mil­i­tary at­tack tar­get­ing delta mil­i­tant

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

LA­GOS: A Nige­rian mil­i­tary at­tack us­ing heav­ily armed sol­diers and aerial bomb­ing runs has killed as many as 150 peo­ple in the oil-rich south­ern delta, a hu­man rights ac­tivist said yes­ter­day.

Oghe­be­ja­bor Ikim, na­tional co-or­di­na­tor for the Fo­rum of Jus­tice and Hu­man Rights De­fence, said civil­ians have suf­fered a heavy toll in the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion that be­gan on Wed­nes­day. He did not say how many of the 150 dead were civil­ians, but said mil­i­tants left the area be­fore the of­fen­sive be­gan.

The attacks on a vil­lage in the Niger Delta con­tin­ued yes­ter­day as the mil­i­tary tried to kill or cap­ture a mil­i­tant called John Togo, who of­fi­cials said gave up on a gover nmentspon­sored amnesty pro­gramme. The amnesty pro­gramme for mil­i­tants brought an un­easy calm to the re­gion, which is now threat­ened by new mil­i­tant attacks and govern­ment of­fen­sives that put civil­ians at risk.

“I can de­scribe it as a killing spree of in­no­cent civil­ians,” Ikim said. “Houses have been burnt. Women are raped. There are killings. Is that how to get at John Togo?”

A mil­i­tary spokesman said yes­ter­day that the op­er­a­tion was on­go­ing. The mil­i­tary has de­clined to of­fer a death toll for the op­er­a­tion tar­get­ing the vil­lage of Ayako­romo and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

An in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment of the dam­age and ca­su­al­ties has yet to be done. The Nige­rian Red Cross and other ac­tivists have been un­able to reach the tar­geted com­mu­ni­ties as the mil­i­tary has sealed off the wind­ing muddy creeks that lead to the re­gion. Ac­tivists say they con­tinue to see smoke and can hear gun­fire.

Video aired on the state-run Nige­rian Tele­vi­sion Author­ity

‘It’s a killing spree of in­no­cent civil­ians … women are raped. There are killings. Is that how to get

at John Togo?’

showed sol­diers in flak jack­ets and hel­mets trav­el­ling by boat through the muddy streams. The net­work also showed im­ages of what ap­peared to be sus­pected mil­i­tants in cus­tody and a sol­dier set­ting a hut ablaze with a lighter.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Ti­mothy Antigha, a mil­i­tary spokesman, pre­vi­ously said sol­diers re­cov­ered anti-air­craft guns, rocket- pro­pelled grenades, au­to­matic ri­fles and dy­na­mite from the three camps tar­geted.

How­ever, it ap­pears that sol­diers have yet to ap­pre­hend Togo. Casely Omon-Ira­bor, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Togo, said yes­ter­day the mil­i­tant and his fight­ers were “far away in the high seas” and not in the re­gion be­ing at­tacked. He said the govern­ment had planned a meet­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a set­tle­ment with Togo, but in­stead had launched a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against him.

“I do not see any rea­son why we are call­ing for truce and try­ing to get peace… and yet a party for that peace has breached that agree­ment and gone into war again,” Omon-Ira­bor said.

Mil­i­tants in the Niger Delta have at­tacked pipe­lines, kid­napped petroleum com­pany em­ploy­ees and fought govern­ment troops since an in­sur­gency be­gan in 2006. The attacks cut dras­ti­cally into crude pro­duc­tion in Nige­ria. Pro­duc­tion has risen back to 2.2 mil­lion bar­rels of oil a day, in part be­cause many mil­i­tant lead­ers and fight­ers ac­cepted the amnesty deal.

But the main mil­i­tant group, the Move­ment for the Eman­ci­pa­tion of the Niger Delta, has promised to carry out new attacks. It claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for a dual car bomb­ing that killed at least 12 peo­ple dur­ing an Oc­to­ber 1 in­de­pen­dence cel­e­bra­tion in Abuja. – Sapa-AP

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