JTF, Navy rescue 27 oil workers from militants

Johnbosco Agbakwuru

26 August 2012, Sweetcrude, CALABAR – A militant group in the Niger Delta got more than it bargained for after security forces stormed its hideout and rescued 27 oil workers it kidnapped late last week.One of the abducted workers was, however, said to be missing.

The workers, reportedly in the employ of an oil servicing company, Sinopec, had been kidnapped on Thursday in Ikang, Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State by the militant group identified as Lactop Marine Force.

The motive of the militant group in abducting the workers could not be ascertained although the authorities described it as criminal.

Other claims against the group were that its members killed a naval officer, three ratings and carried out nefarious activities that gave bad names to Nigeria at Ikang and eastern water ways.

The Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, in collaboration with the Eastern Naval Command, Calabar, Cross River State, stormed the militant group’s hideout, on Friday, and freed the workers.

Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Olufemi Ogunjimi, who briefed journalists in Calabar, Saturday, disclosed that the security forces stormed the militants hideout to rescue the kidnapped oil workers after it was found that the abduction was carried out purely on criminality grounds.

Ogunjimi described the militant group as made up of criminals who had nothing to do with the agitation for the reclaiming of Bakassi which was ceded to Cameroon by the International Court of Justice.

Piracy killings
“This confirms why I called them (Lactop Marine Force) as a criminal gang.

They are the type of people that give the country a bad image. That is how far we have gone and the operation continues and, in no distant time, we will get through with them,” the FOC said.

He described the leader of the gang as a criminal that runs a criminal gang, kidnaps for ransom, engages in piracy, sea robbery and killing of innocent people including uniformed personnel.

The Commander of JTF, Major General Johnson Ochoga, also at the briefing, said the security forces had been on the operation to flush out the gang for days and that members of the militant group were given the opportunity to come out and denounce their criminal activities before they closed- in on the hideout.

Ochoga said there was no casualty during the raid, saying 28 oil workers were abducted but one, out of panic when the troops approached the hideout, ran away. He stated that the whereabouts of the escaped captive were unknown, adding that two of the kidnapped workers had disappeared from the hideout on Friday and gave useful information to the JTF, preparatory to the assault.

Also speaking, the Brigade Commander, 13 Brigade Nigerian Army, Calabar, Brigadier General Shehu Yusuf, whose men were in charge of the land operation, said no life was lost during the rescue operation, saying the military had given the leader of the group the opportunity to come out and that if he should surrender himself willingly, nothing would happen to him.

Yusuf said the JTF used minimum force, stressing that the militants ran away while troops approached. According to him, efforts were being intensified to fish the leader of the militant group and his gang out.

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