Nigerian troops thwart ship hijacking, arrest vandals
LAGOS — Nigerian troops have thwarted an attempted hijack of a vessel in the restive Niger Delta and separately arrested five pipeline vandals, a spokesperson said on Sunday.
“Troops of Operation Base 2 repelled a hijack of a vessel (MT VAJARA) by heavily armed bandits in Ramos River, around Agge area of Delta state,” Lieutenant Commander Thomas Otuji said in a statement.
He said the pirates were repelled after a exchange of fire with government troops.
Otuji also said five people were arrested on October 17 and 18 near oil wellheads around the port city of Warri. “Five suspected vandals were arrested and they confessed to their plan to vandalise the wellheads,” he said, adding that two boats were recovered during the operation.
He said the military was committed to making the entire Niger Delta and the waterways safe for oil firms, vessels and their crew.
He said the military recently responded to distress calls by some travellers who were attacked by pirates in the southern states of Cross River and Rivers, adding that the troops had killed the criminals and rescued the travellers.
Last week, seven suspected pirates and militants were killed in crossfire during a rescue operation while fierce a group of hostages were freed unhurt.
Nigeria has deployed troops to end renewed insurgency in the region.
Since the start of the year, several militant groups have attacked oil facilities, slashing Nigeria’s output and hammering revenue.
Oil-dependent Nigeria is struggling to emerge from a recession following falling oil prices and foreign exchange shortages that have led to a massive devaluation of the naira.
Meanwhile, senior military officers say 83 soldiers are missing after Boko Haram Islamic extremists attacked a remote base in northeastern Nigeria.
Officers said the soldiers were unable to fight back because they were poorly equipped. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to give information to reporters.
Army spokesperson Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said last week that some soldiers were missing and 13 wounded when the insurgents on October 17 attacked their base in Gashigar village, on the border with Niger. Usman has not responded to requests for comment about the actual number.
Officers say dozens of fleeing troops jumped into the Niger River and 22 were pulled from the water by soldiers from the neighbouring country. They say many may have drowned. — AFP