The Nigerian Army says at least five suspected members of the Niger Delta militants group were killed in Rivers State and a large cache of arms recovered by troops involved in “Exercise Crocodile Smile”, which commenced on Saturday.
Army spokesman, Sani Usman, said at least 23 of the armed militants were seriously injured in a shootout between the troops and the militants in their hideout in the creeks. Various calibres of arms, including a speed boat, were also recovered during the exercise, he said.
“The 133 Special Forces Battalion of Nigerian Army troops have carried out a precursor operation to Exercise CROCODILE SMILE aimed at getting rid of all forms of criminal activities in the Niger Delta geo-political region of Nigeria.
“In the course of the operation, five militants that attacked the troops were killed in action, while numerous others were injured and 23 suspects were arrested,” Mr. Usman, a colonel, said..
He said the operations, carried out by Special Forces on Friday, led to the recovery of an abandoned engine boat; two AK-47 rifles with 199 rounds of ammunition; 11 pump action guns, a locally made revolver pistol; 292 cartridges of live ammunition; four electricity generating sets and a camp gas cooker.
Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, also confirmed the killing of the five militants and recovery of arms while addressing troops in Sapele, Delta on Saturday.
Mr. Burutai said apart from those killed, there were other suspects arrested when they attempted to interfere with the training conducted for formations and units in the Niger Delta.
He urged the troops to exercise professionalism in their operations and conduct as they move into the creeks for the exercise, and strive to minimize collateral damage to citizens’ lives and critical national assets located in the area.
The Army Chief urged the troops to respect the rights of members of the communities while discharging their duties, urging them not to spare any criminal found in the creeks.
He said the training was an exercise and operation geared at recovering the nation’s economic base and restoring normalcy in the region, assuring them of government’s commitment to improving the welfare of soldiers and officers.