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JTF denies invading Niger Delta community over killing of 4 soldiers

The Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta on Wednesday refuted reports that the military invaded a community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to retaliate the death of four soldiers.

The four soldiers were killed in an ambush by unknown gunmen at Letugbene in Bayelsa State while carrying out their routine duty within their area of responsibility on February 16, at about 6 pm, the JTF confirmed, saying investigation was ongoing to ascertain the persons or groups behind the attack.

Following the killing of the soldiers on Sunday, online reports emerged that the coastal town of Letugbene was on Monday evening invaded by the military in search of the alleged killers of four soldiers and a civilian tugboat captain. The reports claimed that no fewer than four houses and two suspected pirate camps were razed in the coastal enclave on the Atlantic shores of the state by troops.

But Victor Olukoya, spokesman of the joint force code-named Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), in a statement assured that the military would never invade any community in the Niger Delta region. “It is important to state here that contrary to an online report, the men of OPDS did not invade any community in Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa State as a result of the incident,” he said.

Olukoya reiterated that the mandate of the JTF is “protect oil and gas infrastructure, deter and prevent militancy, sea robbery, crude oil theft and other forms of criminality within the Joint Operations Area that could impact negatively on economic activities in the Niger Delta”.

“The Nigerian military is an organised and disciplined force and all its operations are guided by codes of conduct and rules of engagement,” he said, adding that the military “cannot be seen to behave in the manner that was described by the online reporter”.

The commander Operation Delta Safe along with commander 16 Brigade and commander Sector 2 on operational visit were in Letugene, Beneside, Ogbotobo and Tunu among other communities in Ekeremor LGA and observed citizens going about their lawful duties without any hindrance, Olukoya said. He said the JTF commander has urged the good people of Ekeremor to remain law abiding, as the command would fish out the perpetrators of the ungodly act and ensure a secure environment for all.

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