By Bernard Tolani Dada , Uyo
Police operatives have taken over Ntak Ikot Akpan community in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State following fierce air and ground offensive launched Tuesday by the military joint operation to flush out armed hoodlums suspected to be militia forces of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Checks by our correspondent who visited the scene on Wednesday revealed a deserted community, with virtually all homes locked.
Straying stealthily out from a nearby farm, Okon Ududdo, a local game hunter, who said he spent the night in the bush following heavy bombardments around the area, disclosed that he saw a lot of dead bodies in the forest of Ntak Ikot Akpan, the main epicentre of the crisis. He reckoned that the corpses are perhaps the remains of some of the fleeing hoodlums cut down by mid air strikes.
“Our community was like a war zone because of heavy ground and air bombardments.
“Several people had already fled the community the previous day since the soldiers gave notice that the area would be under intense firefight to clear the militants out of our communities,” he explained, adding that the fleeing villagers were still afraid to return despite the return of normalcy to the troubled communities.
An elderly man on a bicycle who requested anonymity told our correspondent that the military offensive that began at midnight Monday ended around noon on Tuesday. According to him, the military deployed helicopters and drones for aerial surveillance as the ground troops moved to dislodge and flush out criminal elements.
Suspected IPOB members, according to local residents, had invaded the Ntak Ikot Akpan community and hoisted the Biafran flag.
However, attempts by police operatives to dislodge them led to bloody confrontations with three policemen, including a chief superintendent, killed and four others still unaccounted for, according to the commissioner of police (CP), Amiengheme Andrew,
It was gathered that when soldiers were drafted in to make peace, the hoodlums reacted angrily and opened fire on them forcing them to retreat and abandon their operational Hilux van which the militants set blaze.
However, the military 12-hour operation, according to a statement by the military high command, led to the clearing of those it described as “miscreants”.
A statement by the director in-charge of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, yesterday confirmed the clearance of the hoodlums from their base and a return of normalcy to the troubled areas.
“The miscreants exploited various avenues to acquire weapons to perpetrate their heinous crimes. In the past few weeks, the group had attacked various security agencies which resulted in the loss of lives and carting away of weapons.
“The last incident led to the killing of policemen, including a CSP. The hoodlums continued to terrorize law-abiding citizens through extortion and infringement on their rights.
“Consequently, a combined team of military and security agencies conducted a clearance operation to flush out the miscreants. The operation was successfully executed and resulted in the dislodgement of the criminals while the fleeing hoodlums were neutralized by the air component.
“Normalcy has been restored while the police personnel have since assumed full control and carrying out normal duties”, the statement read.
It urged fleeing local residents to return and be on the good side of the law while doing their legitimate businesses.