The Nigerian Army has deployed its personnel to some Imo State communities to carry out raids, discreet searches and arrests of youths and residents who are suspected to be linked to the Indigenous People of Biafra and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network.
Multiple sources told SaharaReporters that the military personnel, suspected to be led by the 34 Artillery Brigade, Owerri, since Sunday have been arresting male residents and youths, particularly in Oguta and Ohaji communities and clamping them into vans and taken to unknown destinations.
“We have been getting distress calls from our relatives and people that the army sent its men to surround communities in Ohaji, Osu, Agwa and Izombe. They have been abducting some male youths. It is an abduction because nobody among those arrested knows his offence, where they are taking him to or is able to communicate to his relatives before he is taken away. The military are forcing them in their vans,” a source stated.
“A few women are among the victims being raided too. Some of our women who went to farms have not returned since. People from Oguta, Ohaji communities, who have relatives in Owerri town are fleeing, because the army wants to turn our villages into deserts. What is all this search because of IPOB and ESN? Is it by emptying our villages that you arrest IPOB and ESN? Won’t people go to their farms again?” a resident said.
Imo State has been a hotbed of violence and killings which got to a head on April 5, when the notorious gunmen attacked the state police command headquarters, and freed no fewer than 2,000 inmates at the headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Owerri.
The gunmen had also attacked the office of the State Criminal Investigation Department of the state police command, freeing suspects there.
The attackers had burnt all the vehicles parked at the command headquarters and freed all the suspects in almost all the cells at the SCID.
SaharaReporters had reported that the gunmen operated in over 10 vehicles, and also attacked soldiers stationed at Umuorji along Owerri–Onitsha Expressway.
Earlier, four police divisional headquarters had been attacked since February. They include Obowo, Aboh Mbaise and Ihitte/Uboma, divisions.
Unknown gunmen on March 20 also razed the Isiala Mbano Police Divisional Headquarters located at Umuelemai in Imo State.
The gunmen had invaded the divisional headquarters armoury and freed suspects in the detention facility and carted away arms.
While some had fingered the IPOB and ESN as the culprits, the state government had said the gunmen were being used by aggrieved politicians, while the IPOB has also denied its involvement in the attacks.