By Emmanuel AddehÂ in Yenagoan
The Joint Task (JTF), Operation Delta Safe, a special security outfit fighting criminalities in the Niger Delta yesterday confirmed that a soldier and one civilian lost their lives when they were ambushed by suspected militants in Ekeremor Local Government, Bayelsa StateÂ on Monday.
However, the militaryâ€™s clarification was in contrast to earlier reports that four soldiers and one civilian, a member of staff of the JTF, were shot during the incident which resulted in claims and counterclaims by sources in the know of the incident.
The Bayelsa government had also in a statement confirmed that three soldiers died while the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) said four soldiers and a non-uniformed man were killed during the attack.
But the Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre (JMCC) of the outfit in the Niger Delta, Major Ibrahim Abdullahi, disclosedÂ on FridayÂ that the losses were exaggerated, stressing that one soldier and a civilian were killed during the ambush.
Â He added that during the attack, the soldiers were able to call for reinforcement which led to the exchange of gunfire between the military and the hoodlums. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
â€œThis is to put to rest the exaggerated speculations on an incident involving our own troops and suspected militants on Monday 28th August, 2017 around 2000hrs (8 pm) near Letugbene community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.Â
â€˜During the firefight, one gallant soldier and a civilian staff attached to the military houseboat paid the supreme price for defending fatherland as against reports of fourÂ soldiers killed.Â
â€œA rescue team supported by gunboats was immediately dispatched to the area and they were able to locate and support two other soldiers who engaged the militantsâ€, Abdullahi said.Â
He also refuted insinuations that the military had deployed men in Letugbene , the village where the incident happened , and surrounding village and had started burning houses and harassing innocent civilians in the area.
Â â€œThe current operations in the creeks and rivulets around the general area are surgical operations designed to fish out the perpetrators of that dastardly act some of whom fled into neighbouring communities.Â
â€œ The job of the JTF remains to keep the peace on the waterways, creeks and the Niger Delta in general. Operation Delta Safe and indeed the Nigerian Military does not carry out reprisal attacks on innocent citizens as alleged in some quarters’, he added.Â
The JTF advised members of the public, especially those resident in areas where operations are being conducted to go about their normal lawful duties without fear of molestation.Â
But THISDAY gathered yesterday that some houses affected by the military operation included that the Vice Chairman of Letugbene community, Mr. Akpozenebrapagaha Namalate, who is said to be homeless currently.
Â Meanwhile the IYC yesterdayÂ condemned the killings, describing the incident as a disgrace and betrayal of the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta in general.
Factional Spokesman of the group, Daniel Dasimaka, said the act did not represent the generality of Ijaw people, insisting that those who carried out the act are cowards.
â€œthe Executives and Members of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide ably led by Barrister Oweilaemi Peretubo wish to unequivocally condemn this vile, bestial and savage killing of four innocent and gallant soldiers and a civilian by some villainous foes of peace and progress .
â€œThese bloodthirsty cowards who run into hiding after carrying out their wickedness leaving innocent nearby communities to suffer the brunt for their actions are the enemies of our land that all Ijaws and lovers of the Ijaw nation must unite to utterly annihilateâ€, the IYC added.
While pledging the total support of the IYC to all efforts by the military headquarters aimed at fishing out the killers and retrieving the stolen weapons, the statement urged the military to carry out its search operations with utmost professionalism in order not to incur needless collateral damage.
â€œWe urge the military to resist the temptation to invade Letugbene and other Ijaw communities in their bid to find the killers.â€ The statement said.