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Okuama Still Not Accessible Due to Cordon-and-Search — Defence Chief

The Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Gen. Christopher Musa, has said the Army is conducting a cordon-and-search in Okuama community, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

Recall that on March 14, no fewer than 17 soldiers, including the Commanding Officer of 181 Amphibious Battalion, two majors, one captain, and 12 personnel of the battalion were killed by militants in Okuama.

Following the killings, residents of Okuama have deserted the community over fears of reprisal attacks by the armed forces.

The slain soldiers were buried at the National Military Cemetery, Abuja, on March 27, with President Bola Tinubu, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-General Taoreed Lagbaja; Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar; and Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, in attendance.

The Defence Chief, speaking on Arise TV on Wednesday, stated that the community is currently not accessible due to the cordon-and-search operation currently ongoing in the area.

His words: “When we finish the cordon and search operations (which is searching every nook and cranny within the community); because we know they have a lot of weapons bought from crude oil theft.

“During the disarmament exercise that was conducted, a lot of them didn’t hand over their weapons. And also, due to closeness to reviverine areas with other countries, they’ve found ways to bring in weapons.

“Their access to weapons made them able to perpetrate the crime.

“It’s for us to thoroughly clean the community to ensure no weapons or explosives are left behind and no one is hiding.

“At the end of it (cordon-and-search), the communities will go back and rebuild. We’re working together with the community; nobody is doing anything to infringe on their rights.

“Also, since it’s an ongoing operation, we wouldn’t want them to come in and be shot or mistaken for antagonists. We’re duty-bound to protect them. As soon as we’re done with the cordon-and-search, they’ll go back.”

Furthermore, Gen Musa also accused the community of harbouring the criminals.

His words: “Those communities (residents) know the criminals. And some of them benefit from these acts of criminality.

“If they say they don’t know them or are not aware of them, they’re far from the truth. Investigations will unravel this. The cordon-and-search is temporary and will be over soon.”

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