Many civilians killed in Nigeria military ops: Rights activist

150 people, civilians, were killed when Nigerian security forces raided militant camps.

Last Updated: Dec 04, 2010, 00:57 AM IST

Abuja: As many as 150 people, many of them
civilians, were killed when Nigerian security forces raided
militant camps to hunt out rebels of the restive Niger delta
region, a human rights activists has alleged.

Oghebejabor Ikim, the national co-ordinator of the
Forum of Justice and Human Rights Defence charged the ongoing
military operation had resulted in heavy civilian deaths as
most militants had already fled.

"Militants fled before the operations started and
civilians are mostly killed," Ikim said without disclosing how
he managed to count the dead and how many of them were
civilians.

The military had announced it is launching a manhunt
for militants who often kidnap oil workers and rupture oil
pipelines in the troubled oil-rich region.

In the present onslaught, the military is believed to
be mainly searching for John Togo, a rebel who accepted the
amnesty programme offered by the federal government of the
country but still did not abandon militancy.

The Joint Task Force of the military sent to fight the
oil rebels has refused to comment on the number of deaths but
they are at present believed to be involved in combing
operations in the village of Ayakoromo in southern Rivers
State.

Relief workers of the Red Cross attempted to reach the
area but could not make it. Attempts by other independent
assessors to reach the region have also failed because
soldiers have effectively sealed off the area.

Images aired on state-owned Nigeria Television
Authority (NTA) had shown soldiers on boats travelling around
the area and burning down a house with some captured men
believed to be militants.

Nigeria`s military said recently it arrested more than
50 militants involved in kidnapping and driving the oil-rich
Niger Delta region into a restive state.

Those arrested were said to have confessed kidnapping
19 recently released hostages, which included two Americans, a
Canadian, two Frenchmen and two Indonesians.

But the main group, Movement for the Emancipation of
the Niger Delta (MEND) denied that its members were arrested
by the oil-rich country`s military and made fresh threats to
disrupt operations in the oil industry.

The military had earlier freed 19 hostages including
foreigners from militant camps after a sustained onslaught
that saw the oil rebels fleeing.

The oil-rich region of Nigeria is notorious for the
activities of the rebels.

Under a presidential pardon offered last year, some
militants operating in the area exchanged their arms for some
monetary compensation promising to stop their activities.

Since 2006, militants in the Niger Delta region have
attacked oil installations, kidnapped oil workers and fought
government troops requesting for the control of the resources
in the area.

PTI