Gunmen have abducted a female soldier in Imo State, Nigeria’s south-east.
The victim, identified simply as P.P. Johnson, was abducted on 26 December while visiting her grandmother in Aku, a community in Okigwe Local Government Area of the state.
Aku is a community that shares a boundary with Abia State.
The victim was said to have visited the region for the yuletide.
A video clip circulating on various WhatsApp groups showed the female officer being tortured by the gunmen in a thick forest.
In the clip, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, one of the gunmen was heard threatening to kill the female officer for being a member of the Nigerian army.
He warned youths from the region against joining the military and other security agencies.
“This is a wonderful information to the whole of our people that are still in the military, that’s how you people will be dying one after the other,” the gunman was heard saying in the background of the clip.
“Here it’s happening live in Enugu, today being 26th of December 2022. It’s happening live and direct. A lieutenant, two stars in the military (has been abducted),” the gunmen said.
“We will kill you and use you as a sacrifice. We will keep your head in front of a shrine,” the gunman was heard telling the female soldier in Igbo language.
The soldier was stripped with her hands and legs tied by the gunmen, who also forced her to sit on the ground in the forest.
“We will fight against our enemies. For those of you that still remain in service, we will take you one after the other.
“This is unknown gunmen. We have nothing to do with IPOB. What we are after is Biafra,” he added.
The clip did not show if she was later killed by the gunmen.
Army reacts, says report of rescue untrue
The Nigerian Army has confirmed the abduction of the female soldier.
Army spokesperson Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement on Friday, said the victim was abducted shortly after completing her cadet training and subsequent commissioning as a lieutenant into the army.
Mr Nwachukwu, a brigadier-general, said the report suggesting that the abducted soldier had been rescued by security agencies was untrue.
“The Nigeria army wishes to state that the information making the rounds is unsubstantiated as the officer is yet to be released or rescued from her abductors,” he said.
The army spokesperson said a video clip circulating and associated with the rescue claim was “an old video” of the arrest of a suspect earlier carried out by troops.
“Much as we appreciate the concern and goodwill of the general public for her safe rescue, we also wish to note that the information on the rescue of the officer did not emanate from the Nigerian army,” Mr Nwachukwu said.
He vowed that the military will “leave no stone unturned in its effort to rescue the officer” and bring the abductors to book.
‘IPOB behind abduction’
The army spokesperson accused the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its militant wing, Eastern Security Network (ESN), of being behind the abduction of the female soldier.
Mr Nwachukwu said it is “instructive” that the IPOB members were not dissuaded from dehumanising the female soldier despite being a “woman and a Nigerian citizen of South-eastern extraction.”
He said the IPOB members carry out “atrocities under the guise of fighting for Biafra” in the region.
“This evidently is another pointer to the myriads of crimes being unleashed by IPOB/ESN on Ndigbo, the very people they claim to be fighting for their emancipation.
“It should therefore be crystal clear to those who are still in doubt of the true status of these groups, that IPOB/ESN are terrorists, masquerading as freedom fighters and do not deserve the support of anyone, particularly the good people of South-east Nigeria,” he said.
Not the first time
Security has deteriorated in the South-east with frequent attacks by armed persons in recent times.
Anambra and Imo states have witnessed some of the deadly attacks in the region.
Aside from government officials and facilities, the military and officials of other security agencies have been targets of attacks by gunmen in the south-east.
The latest incident comes about three months after gunmen killed five soldiers in Umunze, a community in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Gunmen, in September, killed and then beheaded two soldiers at an unknown location in Imo State, Nigeria’s South-east.
READ ALSO: Sit-at-home: Gunmen attack Enugu community
The Nigerian government has accused IPOB of being responsible for the deadly attacks in the region.
But the group has repeatedly denied its involvement in the attacks.
IPOB is a group leading the agitation for an independent state of Biafra which it wants to be carved out from the south-east and some parts of south-south Nigeria.
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