Four Nigerian troops drowned after their boat capsized during operations to combat rebels in the oil-producing south, the military said on Tuesday.
The boat turned over on Monday at about 10:00 am (0900 GMT) in the Brass area of Bayelsa state, which has seen multiple attacks on oil and gas installations since the start of the year.
The military last month launched an operation, named “Crocodile Smile”, against the militants, whose activities have hit crude production and led to high seas piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
A local man in the Brass area, who gave his name only as Etta, said: “The boat that capsized was conveying a new batch of soldiers to the waterfront.
“I was going to dispose of refuse at the waterfront and I saw uniformed soldiers struggling to rescue their colleagues in a capsized boat.
“When the confusion subsided, four soldiers were found to be missing with their rifles and other military gear. Some others that were rescued had their rifles missing and were struggling out of the water.”
The Bayelsa state chairman of Nigeria’s Maritime Union, Lloyd Sese, and an official with the local authorities in Brass both confirmed the incident.
Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman told AFP: “Unfortunately it is true. Our soldiers on exercise Crocodile Smile were involved in a boat mishap on the sea yesterday (Monday).”