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Tension brews over killing of naval ratings expatriates’ abduction in Niger Delta

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Tension now pervades the waterways of Delta and Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region over the killing of four Naval ratings, who were part of a six-man Naval rescue squad.

The ratings were said to have been killed in a gun duel between them and sea pirates at about 12am on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

A top Naval source, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that the attack occurred in NNS Delta, an operations base in Warri, Delta State, one of the seven units under the jurisdiction of the Central Naval Command.

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Another source, however, said the fierce firefight happened at a dredging company, Sterling Global Dredgee, at Agge River in Ekeremor Council Area of Bayelsa State.

The sources said the gunmen suspected to be militants also abducted three expatriates working for a dredging company.

They disclosed that pirates reportedly attacked one of Nigeria’s dredgers, MV AMBIKA, a Sterling Oil dredger close to the entrance of Ramos River before the six-man troop of the Nigerian Navy were sent to neutralise their threat.

But before the team arrived, the suspected sea robbers had “boarded the vessel and abducted three crew members (two Russians and one Indian), leaving behind five other crew members,” the source explained.

Upon the arrival of the rescue team on the scene of the incident, a gun battle had ensued between the armed ratings onboard the vessel and the pirates during which four of the six Naval ratings were killed and the stolen just as the bodies of the deceased ratings have been deposited at the Navy Hospital in Warri.

Also a community source from Agge Community said the incident happened last Friday night but confirmed that the four navy ratings were killed during a gun battle that lasted hours.

A resident of the community told The Guardian that the battle was so fierce that four soldiers were killed in the process, three foreigners taken hostage, while one of the gunmen died during the shootout.

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While the Central Naval Command and the Joint Task Force of Operation Delta Safe’ declined comments on the incident, the attack has created serious tension in the area as military personnel is said to be preparing for reprisals to bring the perpetrators to book.

The neighbouring communities in Delta State are also living in fear that their villages may be attacked, as the military is said to be gathering intelligence on the incident.

So far, no militant group has claimed responsibility on the act nor demanded any ransom from the abductors family.

Commanding officer of NNS Delta, Rear Admiral Ibrahim Dewu, declined comments on the incident as calls and text messages sent to his were neither taken nor replied at press time.

When contacted, Spokesman of Operation Delta Safe, Major Jonah Unuakhalu, promised to get back but did not until the time of filing the report.

Also, Spokesperson for the Central Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Patricia Dike, said she was in a meeting and would get back, but did not revert as at press time.

The police spokesman in Bayelsa State, SP Asinim Butswat, in a response to a text message, said, “Since the attack was on Navy personnel, confirmation should be from the Navy.”

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