Nigeria: The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has described the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger Delta, codenamed ‘Operation Restore Hope’, as an embarrassing failure.
In an online interview yesterday, MEND’s spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, denied the arrest of any of its members by the security outfit in Bonny, Rivers State.
The militant group also disclosed that the Otunana flow station of American oil giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited, was razed at 10:00pm on Tuesday by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), fired at the gas storage tank.
The flow station was razed by MEND’s fighters, at the expiration of its 72-hour ultimatum, which was described by the JTF as an accident.
JTF’s spokesman, Col. Rabe Abubakar, however, insisted that the outfit’s operations in the Niger Delta had been a huge success and adequately restoring hope in the people.
Abubakar urged members of the public to ignore the propaganda of MEND, saying JTF was equal to the task of ensuring peace in the region.
The militant group said: “No member of MEND has been arrested. We do not know the guy called Bernard Wilcox. The JTF always wants to tie anything to MEND, to justify the huge budget on it, considering its operations are becoming an embarrassing failure.
“Piper Alpha is a hurricane. It leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. So, it speaks for itself. The recent Otunana attack is an example.
“The JTF had to tell unconvincing lies to cover the shame. Is it not Chevron that ought to tell the public what caused the fire? They have not, because no fire investigations have been carried out. But we can say with certainty that it was a RPG fired at the gas storage tank that caused it.”
JTF said on Thursday that a militant leader, Wilcox, who heads the Bregede Camp in Bonny, was picked up by security agencies in Port Harcourt and currently assisting the outfits to unmask those behind the spate of attacks on JTF’s locations in Bonny Island.
Abubakar said that Wilcox was suspected to be the leader of a militant group that specialised in kidnapping of both Nigerians and expatriates, as well as attacking military locations in Bonny.
MEND, also on Thursday, indicated that it would henceforth adopt guerrilla warfare, to demystify the officers and men of the JTF, while maintaining that its fight was just.
The militant group, in an open letter to the junior officers and men of the security outfit, signed by Gbomo, said that the ongoing oil “war”, tagged, “Hurricane Piper Alpha”, was for real.
MEND expressed displeasure over the posting of the JTF’s junior officers and men, who were deployed in the Niger Delta to fight an “unjust war” against their fellow brothers and sisters, allegedly for the sake of blood oil.
It again warned oil workers in the Niger Delta to evacuate the entire region, having commenced its promised attack with Tuesday night’s razing of Otunana flow station.
MEND promised not to first shoot at the operatives of the JTF, except fired at, which it said would be bloody, in view of its more sophisticated arms and ammunition.
“Some of your colleagues in JTF have begged for their lives and even told us of loved ones left behind. We sympathise with you and that is why it is important to understand that if you have an overzealous soldier or sailor by your side, caution him not to shoot at us or else it will end in a bloodbath to our advantage.
“Our mission is to destroy the facilities that are being used to generate funds to buy bombs to destroy our already traumatised communities and the killing of soldiers becomes necessary only in self-defence. From THENATIONONLINE
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In another development, a JTF Statement signed by Col. Rabe Abubakarsays Troops of the Joint Task Force, Operation Restore Hope, were ambushed at about 12:09 today, 12 June 2009, by militants from Boyloaf Camp at Ogbotobo community in Bayelsa state. This led to heavy exchange of gunfire between the troops and the militants and as a result five of them were killed while a soldier sustained gun injuries and has been evacuated to an undisclosed hospital for treatment.
The men of the security outfit were attacked by the militants when we were returning from Ogbotobo Community to secure items recovered from suspected militants by vigilante group of the community. The members of the community arrested the militants who invaded their community to foment trouble and to established a base there, but they refused and arrested them
The JTF is calling on all peace loving communities in the Niger Delta to weed out the bad eggs among them for peace to reign in the region. They should be weary of those claiming to be fighting on their behalf as they are doing so for their selfish interest. The JTF will defend any group and communities that assisted it in getting rid of the criminals, because we believe it is only when there is peace and security that development will come to any region or nation.
The JTF wishes to debunk the claim by MEND that JTF killed seven persons in Kangbene Community in Delta State. This is yet another attempt to attract underserved sympathy from those who don’t know MEND. We therefore urged all well meaning citizens or Nigerians home and abroad to disregard this and any other allegations by these criminals, because they have run out of ideas.