07 March 2012, Sweetcrude, WARRI – EX-MILITANTS and sea pirates operating on Nembe and Ogbia waterways in Southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa state have fled their camps following a crackdown on them by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), codenamed “Operation Pulo Shield”.
One of the fleeing ex-militants, who was among those agitating for inclusion in the post-amnesty programme, said in Warri, Wednesday, “Many of us have fled from Bayelsa state because JTF is ransacking everywhere after the killing of four military men and four policemen, last week”.
Spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Col Timothy Antigha confirmed on Sunday that the remains of a Lieutenant Colonel and three naval ratings killed in a gun fight with sea pirates, led by one Shedrack Itokofuwei, alias Mammy Water had been recovered.
He, however, disclosed that Mammy Water, who the task force described as a sea pirate was later shot dead in a gun battle with a Naval patrol team after three speed boats in his convoy were sunk.
It was gathered that apart from ex-militants and suspected sea pirates, a lot of youths in most of the riverside communities in Southern Ijaw local government area had fled their communities as a result of the siege to the waterways by the task force.
An ex-militant leader, identified as “General” Victor Gbekegbeke spoke to Sweetcrude on phone, Friday, March 2, claiming to be the leader of a 200-man strong band that killed the military men.
He said they would continue with their renewed attacks on the waterways until the Federal Government incorporates them into the post-amnesty programme.
He spoke very confidently, claiming, he was fortified in his mission by Egbesu, the Ijaw god of war because he was fighting a just battle.
An informant who linked Sweetcrude with the ex-militant leader confirmed when contacted, Monday morning, “I am hearing that Victor is dead, that he was killed by the JTF in a gun battle after he spoke to you”.
Asked if “General” Victor Gbekegbeke also bear the sobriquet, Mammy Water, the informant said, “They interchange their names to deceive people, but I can tell you that what I am hearing is that he is dead”.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), however, insisted, that the attack and killing of soldiers were carried out by its fighters and not sea pirates.
It denied that any of its fighters were killed by JTF and challenged it to produce the remains, if any.