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Defence HQ claims military fired at oil bunkerers not cargo boat on Bonny River

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The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has dismissed reports that a military helicopters fired at a cargo boat conveying people and foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

It was widely reported on Friday that a military chopper opened fire on a cargo boat conveying foodstuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

Reacting to the allegation in a statement on Monday, the Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Sawyerr said the report was false.

Sawyerr said that the Air Component of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), received reports from ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance at the point of encounter.

According to him, on receiving the report a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel.

He said that the helicopter encountered an illegal oil bunkering boat popularly called “Cotonou Boat”.

“The boat which was being escorted by two speedboats was suspected to be carrying illegally refined oil products in large drums along the Channel in the direction of OPDS patrol boats.

Read also: Defence HQ issues warning against misinformation in wake of NDA attack

“On sighting the boat, warning shots were fired to dissuade the crew from hostile action.

“The crew fired back at the helicopter and the boat was engaged accordingly.

The two speedboats detached from the convoy at high speed leaving the “Cotonou Boat” which was neutralised.

“The helicopter later went after the two speedboats but was unable to track it, while the suspects are still at large and a manhunt has been sent out to apprehend them,” he said.

The Defence spokesman said that the military had remained a professional institution that operates in line with best practices through the application of the rule of engagement and code of conduct.

He urged the public to disregard the report and continue to provide accurate information to troops that would help the military safeguard lives, properties as well as government assets in the South-South region.

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