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We’ re unaware of cease-fire order, says JTF

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Militants use flat-bottom boats to navigate the shallow creeks.

WARRI — COMMANDER of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, Major General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello yesterday refuted media reports of a cease-fire order on him to stop the war in the creeks.

In a telephone chat with Saturday Vanguard yesterday, Yarkin-Bello said  he was not aware of such an order and asked who issued such a directive.

But if there is hope that the militants would accept the amnesty by the Federal Government, the details of which is expected in two weeks time, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger_Delta dampened it, yesterday, saying   in an open letter to President Umaru Yar’Adua  that the government was putting the cart before the horse on the matter.

Meanwhile, fresh shootings have  erupted in the creeks in Delta state.  Acting on intelligence information, some soldiers stormed some Tebu_Biri Ijaw communities with gunboats and shot randomly as they entered, forcing the residents to flee.

A woman, Mrs. Rose Agbowei from Opuedebubo community who spoke with Saturday Vanguard on phone alleged that the soldiers first came to the community on Thursday and continued again on Friday, saying, they were ransacking homes and looting our things.

Rose has not seen her husband and children who ran into the bush since Thursday when the soldiers came and that the military men broke into many homes carting away things.

One of the leaders of the Tebu_Biri Ijaw Youth Forum said JTF troops were causing fresh terror on the people, as they go about raiding the communities. “Right now, they are at Okpelama, many people are missing since yesterday (Thursday) when they started again. I am speaking to you from the bush”, the spokesman of the forum, Nanakumo stated.

Another villager, Itima called on the Federal Government to call the JTF to order, saying, “We are not militants, the soldiers should stop harassing us, they should go and look for the militants where they are, they are not living us with here. Our people have all fled because of this constant harassment”.

The JTF commander said he headed back to the creeks in Gbaramatu kingdom, Delta State, yesterday, to personally lead the “Cordon and Search” operation by the security outfit for the 18 missing personnel of the armed forces and the militants responsible for the ill_fortune that befell them.

Major_General Yarkin_Bello spent three nights in the creeks when the crisis broke out on May 13, hunting for the militants and directing the aerial and ground attacks on the militants. His return to the creeks, yesterday, amid reports that the Federal Government had ordered a cease-fire showed the task force was not giving in.

The JTF commander confirmed in a chat with Saturday Vanguard that he was in the creeks in continuation of JTF operation. His words, “I am in a remote part of Delta State as I am speaking to you now in pursuit of the search for my missing soldiers and arms”.

Told that it was reported in the dailies that the Federal Government had allegedly ordered a cease-fire, he said he does not take his orders on the pages of the newspapers.

He stated that the JTF operations were not in Delta state alone and asking him when the task force would withdraw its troops from the creeks of the state  was like asking him when the security outfit would also pull out  from  Rivers, Bayelsa and other states.  For now, however, he said he was looking for his missing soldiers and arms and was continuing with the Cordon and Search operation.

Anxiety over FG probe

Meanwhile, anxiety rose in both government and corporate circles yesterday over the reported probe of the militants and their sponsors by the Federal Government.

Some politicians and companies have inundated media houses with calls on the purported list of militants’ backers in possession of the Federal Government.

But source dismissed the insinuation against one of the governors in the Niger_Delta alleged to be backing militants, saying it was uncalled for, as the governor is known to have many times in the past that the criminals should be separated from the genuine freedom fighters and be dealt with.

Govt is doing the wrong thing – MEND

In rejecting President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty, MEND in an open letter to the President yesterday said, “The civilized world expected your apology to the hundreds of displaced persons and relatives of dead civilians caused by the indiscriminate aerial bombing targeted at innocent impoverished communities from cowardly armed forces meant to instil fear.

Gbaramatu youth leader, Chief Dennis Otuaro in an interview with Satrurday Vanguard faulted President Umaru Yar’Adua’s approach to the protestations of the Ijaws of the Niger-Delta, saying, it was an indication that all was not well with Nigerian federalism.

He pointed out that the agitation in the Niger Delta need mutual support because the problems of the region were based on the foundations of this country, Nigeria, adding, “Yar’Adua should immediately go back to the drawing-board and adopt those mechanisms that will engender genuine dialogue, negotiations and build trust with the Niger Delta people to allay our fears”.

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