At least 3,000 soldiers have so far been deployed in the Niger Delta as Nigeria’s security agencies ramp up the war against militancy in the region, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, disclosed on Tuesday.
This came as Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) on Tuesday alleged an attempt by the military to cover up the death of 16 soldiers in Delta State, four days after ‘Operation Crocodile Smile.’ was launched in the region.
The army chief spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, just as the military moved to douse the tension occasioned by the massive movement of troops in the region, assuring communities in the area that the ongoing military exercise codenamed, ‘Operation Crocodile Smile,’ was designed to protect them.
Buratai’s comments yesterday were made against the backdrop of allegations that the military had embarked on harassing and brutalising innocent residents along the coastlines, an accusation that the security forces have always refuted.
The CAS, who spoke at the Government House when he visited Governor Seriake Dickson, told the communities to remain calm, stressing that troops involved in the exercise understood the rules of engagement and would strictly adhere to them.
He added that the visit was necessary as part of the operation’s confidence-building, maintaining that
the current exercise was meant to equip the soldiers with required skills to ensure the safety of the maritime environment for Bayelsa and other states of the Niger Delta.
The army chief, who was accompanied by other military commanders including the Commander, Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, said the exercise was part of the amphibious training activities of the military.
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