The Nigerian Army has denied that soldiers were responsible for the burning and destruction of properties in lzombe community of Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State.
The Director of Army Media Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu made the denial in a statement on Monday, claiming that suspected members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) were responsible.
It would be recalled that residents had accused soldiers of shooting a youth of the community identified as Chukwunonso Iherue during a heated argument that led to his death.
Reports also had it that the youths of the community mobilized and attacked the soldiers, resulting in the alleged killing of two soldiers and the burning of vehicles.
Soldiers reported reinforced and stormed the community in a reprisal attack and allegedly killed many residents and burnt houses.
Nwachukwu, while giving an update on the operations of the Exercise Golden Dawn, Still Waters, and Enduring Peace launched on October 4, claimed that IPOB members attacked properties belonging to those perceived to be against them.
He said: “Following the recent unfortunate incident in Izombe Community of Oguta LGA in Imo State which was characterized by arson and wanton destruction of properties by members of the outlawed IPOB, It has become pertinent to state the facts of the matter and set the records straight for the benefit of the general public.
“At about 9 am on October 8, 2021, troops of Ex GOLDEN DAWN Sector B received a distress call regarding the criminal activities of one Chukwunonso Iherue, a convict who was among the escapees from the Owerri Correctional Centre on April 5 2021.
“Iherue was armed with a pistol and was threatening, intimidating and inciting persons in the Izombe community to support the proscribed IPOB terrorist group.
“It is on record that late Chukwunonso Iherue masterminded the attack on Izombe Divisional Police Headquarters on May 14, 2021, during which four of his gang members were neutralized. Similarly, he masterminded the attack on the same Police Divisional Headquarters on August 13, 2021, where three policemen paid the supreme price.
“Again on October 1, 2021, Iherue and his gang members were seen parading Izombe Community, flying the Biafra insignia while threatening and instilling fear in the people, thereby creating tension in the community.
“When troops attempted to arrest him, he escaped with the help of some persons. Since then, troops have kept a close watch and have been on his trail. On receipt of the distress call, troops deployed to the scene and attempted to apprehend the suspect.
“The criminal was neutralized as he engaged the troops with fire from his pistol in a frantic attempt to escape. Youths in the community then mobilized a large number of suspected IPOB members armed with automatic weapons and bearing IPOB insignia.
“The group opened fire on the troops, killing two soldiers in the process. In an effort to avoid civilian casualty and collateral damage in the community, troops tactically withdrew from the area. Unfortunately, the suspected IPOB members ran amok, setting ablaze houses and other properties belonging to those perceived to be against them.”
According to Nwachukwu, a reinforcement team was deployed to Izombe, leading to the stabilisation of the security situation in the community.
He however added that on arrival at the community, the criminal gang had also burnt the troops’ Hilux van in addition to other public and private properties.
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