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Pipelines bombing: Militants flee as JTF intensifies hunt

According to a report on Vanguard militants who blew up crude oil and gas pipelines in Delta State for three days last week, have beat a retreat following an intensive manhunt for them by operatives of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta and appeals by traditional rulers and concerned leaders of Ijaw ethnic nationality.
Riverine dwellers in affected communities in Warri South-West Local Government Area, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said that there was relative calm, yesterday, following the overpowering presence of soldiers who invaded some communities and suspected hideouts of the militants.
One of them, John Preye, said: “The restriction on movements has been relaxed; people can now go about without the kind of search soldiers subjected us to on Saturday and Sunday.”
Vanguard gathered that many Ijaw traditional rulers contacted known leaders of militant groups in their areas and threatened to hold them responsible if soldiers bombarded their communities because of their activities.
The Commander of JTF, Major-General Alani Okunola, boasted on Sunday during inspection of bombed gas pipelines at Egwa II, that the task force was closing in on the militants and would fish them out.
A close aide to one of the militant leaders confided in Vanguard: “Many traditional rulers actually called to appeal that we should simmer down because soldiers will seize the opportunity to bombard our communities and kill innocent persons.”
Meanwhile, the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who condemned the mindless destruction, yesterday, lamented that the state was “bleeding again” because of the attacks.
However, chieftains of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Warri South-West Local Government Area reacted to the insinuation by ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, that they were responsible for the bombing, saying that Tompolo should stop the distraction and face the consequences of his action.
One of the leaders, Chief Ayiri Emami, who decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to APC before the last presidential election said, “They should not run away from what they have done and accuse APC. They should mention the person in APC and let security agents investigate that person.”
Despite the relative calm, soldiers continued their reconnaissance operation in the creek yesterday, as several Ijaw groups condemned the invasion of communities by the task force and suggested a political solution to the impasse between Tompolo and the Federal Government.

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