Six and IPOB Commander killed in Joint Military, Police Operation
A tactical team of the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, and Department of State Services (DSS), in a joint operation early Saturday morning, stormed the operational headquarters of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the military wing of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in Awomama, Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, killing seven members of the group.
The Army said Ikonso Commander, who was said to be the commander of the IPOB military, was among the seven killed during an exchange of gunfire between government forces and ESN fighters.
An army officer and three policemen also died in the operation.
In a swift reaction to the attack, IPOB confirmed the killing of one of its commanders, but disputed the security agents’ claim that ESN operational headquarters was stormed. It said Ikonso was ambushed.
IPOB issued a stern warning to Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma, saying he “will pay dearly” for the killing of one of its commanders.
In a related development, the military authorities said troops killed 21 terrorists in Geidam, Yobe State.
A statement by the Nigerian Army, signed by the Army spokesman, Brigadier-General Mohammed Yerima, said the operation in Imo State was launched in the early hours of Saturday following an intelligence report on the location of IPOB’s operational headquarters and the movement of the overall commander, popularly known as Ikonso Commander. It said the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Police and DSS team, along with troops of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, had been on the trail of the group since the attacks on the Imo State Police Command headquarters and the Owerri Correctional Centre on April 5.
The statement alleged that Ikonso Commander was the mastermind of the attacks, in addition to multiple attacks in the South-east and South-south.
The statement said, “The joint intelligence team had earlier interviewed several arrested IPOB/ESN terrorists in connection with the April 5 attacks and they all confessed that Ikonson Commander who was named as Vice President by their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and was the one that mobilised men and resources as well as ordered and orchestrated the attacks on Owerri.
“They equally revealed that Ikonson was responsible for many other attacks on police stations across the two geo-political zones.”
It said the intelligence team later “tracked the IPOB/ESN top leader to his exact location in Awomama village where he (Ikonson) and his to commanders were hibernating and plotting dastardly acts against the Nigerian state.
“On noticing the presence of the joint operations team, IPOB/ESN terrorists brought heavy volume of fire on the raiding team who swiftly responded and overwhelmed them with superior fire power that neutralised Ikonson and six of his top Commanders.
“Sadly however, a Second Lieutenant and three IRT operatives paid the supreme price in the fire fight that ensued. The four officers who fought gallantly have already been evacuated to a military facility in Owerri.”
The army statement said three AK 47 riffles, a Toyota Sienna van, and several other items of value, including drugs suspected to be psychotropic substances, were recovered and were being processed by the intelligence team to assist in further investigations and operations in the area.
The statement added, “The joint security team is already dominating the general area while preparations for further operations are in top gear. The neutralised Ikonson Commander had on several occasions posed for photographs with the fugitive leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.”
The Army said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Ibrahim Attahiru, commended the troops, the Police IRT, and DSS operatives for making the operation a success.
“The Nigerian Army along with other security agencies will sustain intelligence-based kinetic operations in the South-east and South-south until the regions are free of terrorist activities,” the statement said.
IPOB had denied being behind the attacks in Imo State.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, on Saturday, IPOB said, “The killing of the heroic innocent Biafrans protecting our communities and towns from Fulani terrorists herdsmen masquerading as cattle herders in cold blood is very painful.