The Nigerian Army on Monday said suspected Indigenous Peoples of Biafra members were responsible for the wanton destruction of properties in Izombe Community of Oguta Local Government Area of Imo state on October 8.
Residents had accused soldiers of shooting a youth of the community identified as Chukwunonso Iherue during a heated argument that led to his death.
The youths were said to have mobilized and attacked the soldiers, resulting in the alleged killing of two soldiers and the burning of vehicles.
The soldiers were said to have reinforced and stormed the community in a reprisal attack and allegedly killed many residents and burnt houses.
On October 13, the Imo state governor, Hope Uzodinma urged the Army to sheath its sword following an alleged invasion of the community.
However, while giving an update on the operations of the Exercise Golden Dawn, Still Waters, and Enduring Peace launched on October 4, the Director of Army Media Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu explained 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.
Nwachukwu continued, “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.”
Nwachukwu, however, said a reinforcement team was deployed to Izombe and the security situation was immediately stabilized, adding that on arrival at the community the criminal gang had also burnt the troops’ Hilux van in addition to other public and private properties.
He also dispelled the narrative that the ongoing exercises are aimed at the military occupying the South East, noting that the deployment of troops of the Nigerian Army is not only in South-East Nigeria but also in the troubled parts of the country, particularly in the North-West and North-East.