No fewer than six Nigerian soldiers have been killed in new military campaign against militants in the country’s restive Niger Delta oil hub, security officials said on Friday.
The southern swampland has been largely quiet since the start of the year because militants halted attacks against oil pipelines to give the government a chance to conduct peace talks.
But in a new confrontation, security forces moved into Ajakpa community in Ondo state, a region west of the Niger Delta, to hunt for militants involved in oil theft and kidnapping.
At least six soldiers were killed, as was the leader of a gang that had used the area as base to stage operations inside the Delta, military officials told a news conference in the oil town of Yenagoa. The operation has not yet finished.
“Following that successful operation, our troops carried out a raid operation to clearremnants of miscreants, militant camps, shrines and hideouts,” a military statementsaid.
But the Ijaw Youth Council, representing the biggest ethnic group in the region, saidthe army had laid siege to the community and harmed civilians.
“No one is allowed to come in or go out from the community as the water ways have been blocked by the military,” it said in a statement.
“Women and children are dying on the hour of starvation and diseases; women are being r*ped and s*xually harassed.
”But according to Reuters, the military rejected the allegations by the Ijaws as propaganda.