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War in the Creeks of Nigeria - Stop This Carnage, Say Niger Delta Leaders

Published on Monday 18th May 2009

AS the Joint Task Force (JTF) yesterday continued its attacks on Ijaw villages in a bid to raze down suspected camps of militants, a cacophony of voices has risen in condemnation of the offensive.

Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark (CON), while condemning the attack implored President Umaru Yar'Adua to order an immediate ceasefire as many people have been killed while others have been trapped in the mangroves for days now.

While the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) described the attacks as a holocaust agenda, a columnist, Tony Uranta called it a massacre, and called on President Umaru Yar'Adua to order a stoppage to the carnage immediately.

Also, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South) as well as PENGASSAN say war is not the answer to the Niger Delta question, with Senator Fred Brume calling it "an unequal battle that is drastically de-populating several parts of the region."

Yesterday morning, the JTF resumed mid-air bombardment of Oporoza, Ubefan, Okerenkoko, Kurutie, Azama, Benikurukuru and other Gbaramatu-Ijaw communities in Delta State with helicopter gunships, two days after last Friday's offensive that left no fewer than 65 persons dead and over 100 persons, including traditional chiefs injured.

The fresh offensive started yesterday morning around 3.30pm, it was gathered that Kurutie community was razed down. The seven communities that make up Gbaramatu kingdom were deserted yesterday following the fresh military assault. Oporoza, Kunukunuma and Kurutie were attacked by the JTF last Friday.

Following reports that Oporoza and Okerenkoko would be the next to be attacked after Kurutie, a source said many people fled their homes and that more 30,000 persons were trapped in the mangroves, as they could not come out because of the continuing JTF bombardment of the areas.

Clark asks Yar'Adua to order ceasefire

Ijaw leader, Chief Clark who spoke to Vanguard yesterday morning said he got information that the JTF.

Had re-commenced bombings of Oporoza and other Ijaw communities and that he put a call to the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who, probably was in the church and did not pick the call, so he had to send a text message, appealing to him to help save Ijaw people from being wiped out by the army.

After a fruitless attempt to reach the President, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua, Chief Clark also sent on open message to him. It reads, "President, unable to reach you, hence this open message to you. I am appealing to you to stop your government's decision to declare a full blown war against the Ijaws of the Niger- Delta by using jets and helicopters in bombing towns and villages killing innocent children, women and old people who are not part of the militants.

"Apart from those being killed by the bombing, many of the villagers who are alive are seeking refuge in the bush for the past three days. The bombing has started this morning, Sunday (yesterday) and six communities including Oporoza, Kurutie, Ubefan, Kunukunuama, are being razed to the ground by the military.

"Now that the militants' camp has been taken by the JTF and we have already appealed to the militants to stop fighting, I sincerely appeal to Mr. President on behalf of the Ijaw people to cease fire and bring normalcy to the area. What is going on, Mr. President, is definitely not in the interest of the country. You have a duty to protect all Nigerians because we are part of this country. Please act immediately", he said.

It's holocaust agenda - Evah

In a text message sent to Vanguard, Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah accused the Federal Government of executing a "holocaust agenda against the Ijaw nation."

The message read: "We are glad that the world has seen the truth that President Umaru Yar'Adua, does not want peace in the region. He, as Commander-in-Chief, mobilised the number of warships, jet fighters and machine guns that are more than Nigeria's firepower during the Biafra civil war and ECOMOG operation put together to face our people. It is a shame", the statement said.

Stop the carnage now - Uranta

Secretary-General of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), Mr. Tony Uranta, in his reaction said: "We are appalled at the current ease with which innocent women, children, the aged and the infirm are being massacred in government's onslaught against Niger Delta communities, in the name of 'searching for militants' in Delta State.

"Ijaw communities like Kurutie have been razed, whilst others....are still bombarded by land, sea and air forces with no regard to the 'collateral damage' caused in terms of innocents killed.

"Can one blame the Ijaws and Niger Deltans who are accusing the Federal Government of genocidal intentions? President Yar'Adua and Vice President Jonathan must stop this carnage immediately, or be held personally liable for every innocent soul killed by this invasion of the Niger Delta."

Why JTF resumed hostilities

The reason for fresh hostilities by the JTF, yesterday, was not clear, but a source said it got information that militants were mobilising from the communities to attack oil installations and take over Camp 5, the militant den that was overrun and occupied by the task force, last Friday. Scores of buildings were said to have been destroyed and several persons injured but there was no confirmation of any casualty figure.

Camp 5 gone - JTF

However, coordinator of the Joint Media Campaign Centre of the JTF, Colonel Abubakar told Vanguard on phone when contacted yesterday that the task force was only carrying out a mop-up operation, which does not require air bombardment.

Clarifying that he never said 100 soldiers were injured in the takeover of Camp 5 by the JTF a few days ago, but that 100 militants were feared to have been injured, some seriously, during a crossfire with the troops, Colonel Abubakar said what the JTF did yesterday was just an operation to hold on to its occupied targets.

"In the same vein, JTF troops were attacked yesterday afternoon while carrying out rescue mission at Kunukunuma Village. In the process, heavy gun battle ensued and majority of the militants were killed while two soldiers sustaining minor injuries.

"The JTF is asking all Niger Deltans, especially those in the villages where rescue missions are going on, not to be afraid but go about their legitimate businesses because military actions can not deprive them of their freedom since doing so will not speak well of military image at home and abroad." Col Abubakar said

The Joint Task Force, Operation Restore Hope, in a release, reiterated that the continuous search and rescue operations carried out at the general area of camp 5 and the Chanomi Creek were targeted at criminals who made those areas their abode and to rescue the remaining expatriates on board MT Spirit earlier hijacked by militants.

3 more expatriates freed

Colonel Abubakar, said that it was gladdening to inform the public that three more expatriates were again rescued bringing the number of expatriates so far rescued to nine. He added that "efforts were being intensified to lay hands on what we are searching for in Chanomi Creek and its environs."

Moreso, the Coordinator pointed out that it was pertinent to state that "Camp 5 has become history and all the equipment inside it has been reduced to rubbles and we are on the ground, we are controlling the place, it ceases to be a camp 5 for good.

"Against the purported release by MEND that camp 5 has become JTF's cemetery, we are saying that such statement is hilarious and a show to the public that some of them still exist despite the fact that their bones have been broken.

"As we are talking to you, MEND is lifeless and homeless, we are also advising the general public, especially the media, not to take them seriously because they are unpatriotic and criminals.

"Whoever that does not wish his country well is evil-minded and should be decisively dealt with", Abubakar added.

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