Pilots of the Nigerian Air Force fighter jets have destroyed the four major camps of suspected militants, who are said to be armed pipeline vandals at Arepo, Ogun State, on the fourth day of the sustained aerial attacks on the hoodlums in the area.
The Director of Information and Public Relations of the NAF, Group Capt. Ayodele Famuyiwa, told The PUNCH on the telephone on Sunday that the NAF was intensifying aerial operations during the day and the night to dislodge the militants terrorising riverside communities of Ogun and Lagos states.
Famuyiwa said the NAF was carrying out sustained operations against the vandals to prepare the stage for the ground troops to move in and get rid of the gunmen.
Investigation revealed that the fighter pilots of the NAF had carried out successful strikes on the two major camps in the Fatola and Abuja and two other areas.
Famuyiwa said the embattled militants were fleeing their fortress into the mangrove forest and were being monitored effectively by platforms deployed for the operation.
The Air Force spokesman explained that the NAF had carried out surveillance activities on the hoodlums to gather the necessary information about their activities before the commencement of the current aerial bombardments.
He said the fighter pilots were using rockets against the vandals because they built their tents on pipelines, which made it difficult to use bombs in the operation.
Famuyiwa stated that bombs could destroy pipelines apart from the fact that those dropped on water might not explode immediately and could become a problem in future.
He said, “So, for now, it is just the Air Force that is operating in that area. We started with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance basically, to gather information about the position of those people, how fortified are they, and to look into the things that they are doing.
“After that survey, we have been able to identify targets to be eliminated. The first strike was conducted on Thursday. We struck at their camps and the whole essence is to take them up so that we can dislodge them from that area pending the time that the surface forces would be able to come in.
“So, every day, we have been striking and we are doing both night and day operation. There are about four camps that have been identified, that we have struck.
“The challenge is that you need to be able to match your targets with your weapons. Don’t forget that those idiots built their tents on the pipelines. It appears that it is not something that started today, it is something that has been on for years.’’
Famuyiwa added, “When we hit those camps, they are now moving deeper into the forest. So we cannot say that you can just dislodge them for a while, they might want to come back. So what we are doing is that we have intensified our surveillance activities to bomb them deep into the mangrove forest.
“Like I said, they are very crafty people, they have built their camps, on the pipelines to be able siphon fuel. So, what we are doing is to use rockets to fire at them; you can get some level of destruction of the tents but you may not destroy the tents completely, but you can be sure that any human element that is there, it is going to kill them.”
Famuyiwa explained further that video clips from the aerial offensive against the militants showed that they were well armed and very organised.
According to him, they had GPMG mounted on canoes on their observation posts, which showed that they had been involved in the vandalisation of the pipelines for long.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, told one of our correspondents on Saturday that the military would sustain the operations to ensure that the camps of the vandals were removed.
However, neither Famuyiwa nor Abubakar could give the casualty figure in the four-day aerial pounding of the hideouts of the hoodlums.
A source involved in the operation said on Sunday that there was continuing rocket fire while ground troops and other security agents were in strategic locations in the area.
The source said the armed vandals were holed up in the area and could not provide any resistance to the military onslaught on them.
“The operation is not over. These guys are still inside there. The military is still pounding their locations.
“You know that the terrain is very difficult, you can only get there with canoes but the troops have blocked the entire place. Only the military can tell you when ground forces will move in,” Abubakar stated.
NSCDC arrests 19 fleeing militants
No fewer than 19 suspected militants have been arrested by operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the ongoing aerial bombardment of creeks in the Fatola and Arepo areas of Ogun State.
It was gathered that some of the suspects were apprehended while fleeing from their camps being shelled by the Nigerian military.
Although the military had assured residents of the areas of safety, the operation had created panic among some people in the areas. While some residents had fled their homes, others were forced to remain indoors.
It was learnt that while the operation continued, operatives, comprising the police, NSCDC, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Army mounted roadblocks at strategic places that could be used as escape routes by the militants.
An official of the NSCDC, Lagos State Command, who participated in the operations, told one of our correspondents on Sunday that 19 militants were in the corps’ custody.
He said, “Nineteen militants were arrested around the Ishawo, Igbo Olomu and Elepete areas of Ikorodu on Saturday and Sunday. Some of them were caught after fleeing from the areas being bombarded while others were arrested based on information by residents. NSCDC officials from Ondo, Ogun and Oyo states are with us. We are about150. The bombardment is still on.”
The spokesperson for the NSCDC, Lagos State Command, Kehinde Bada, confirmed the arrest, adding that investigation was ongoing.
She said, “It was a joint operation involving our men, the police, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force. So far, we have arrested 19 suspected militants, some of who fled their base, having realised their game was up.”