Army nabs soldier training militants in Rivers



THE Nigerian Army has arrested a soldier, who specialised in training Niger Delta militants in Kula Community of Akuku-Toru Local Council of Rivers State.

The suspect was nabbed during arms and ammunition mop-up by the 2 Brigade Garrison of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt.

The Commanding Officer, Lt.-Col. Timothy Opurum, told journalists Tuesday in Port Harcourt that the soldier, member of a 13-man -militant gang alleged to have been terrorising many communities in the state, left the army in 2002.

Opurum said the troops raided the community on account of incessant cases of militancy, kidnapping, piracy, cultism and killings which had continued unabated in the area.

The military chief said that intelligence revealed that the community was not only serving as hide-out for criminals but hoodlums were also storing caches of arms and ammunition in the area.

Opurum noted: “Based on intelligence reports, we carried out a sting operation where we captured 13 members of a militant gang, including their notorious kingpin leader, simply known as Kenneth.

“We also arrested a soldier, who deserted the army in 2002 and specialised in training of militants in weapons handling and operational tactics.

“The soldier (names withheld), who is a Private, joined the army in 1998 and served in 331 Artillery Regiment Kalapanzi Barracks in Kaduna before he was declared missing in 2002,” he said.

“The soldier, who is related to the kingpin of the militant group, is still in our custody and will be released to prosecuting agencies after formal dismissal from the army,” Opurum added.

He described the raid as “highly successful,” saying arms and ammunitions were recovered by troops during the operation.

He continued: “Some of the arms and ammunitions had already been moved by the militants before our troops arrived at the community.
“Twelve suspects, excluding the deserter-soldier, the arms and ammunitions had been handed over to the state Directorate of Security Service (DSS) for further investigation and prosecution,” he said.

Opurum, who led the operation, however, denied allegation that troops opened fire on innocent fishermen and traders and destroyed their wares during the operation.

He said: “It is highly untrue that soldiers assaulted innocent civilians during the operation to mop up arms and criminality in Kula community.

“There was no case or cases of manhandling both on the part of civilians and on the suspects who were arrested over their involvement in gun-running activities,” he stated.

It would be recalled that the ruler of Opu-Kula in Akuku-Toru, Hope Opusingi, had alleged that soldiers battered his people and destroyed property worth millions of naira during the raid on the area.

Opusingi claimed that soldiers invaded his community “under the guise of carrying out a presidential directive against oil theft and attacked harmless elders and innocent fishing settlements.”

The monarch had said the action by the army was an abuse of power and a gross violation of the right of his people.

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