The Nigerian Army has denied that soldiers burnt down several houses in Awo-Mmamma community in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State.
Recall that we had reported the incident on Tuesday.
Soldiers had burnt the houses and shops during a reprisal attack after one of them was killed by gunmen, according to a report by Punch.
Reacting, the acting Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 82 Division Nigerian Army, Major Abubakar Abdullahi claimed that the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra were responsible for the incident.
Abdullahi made the accusation in a statement on Tuesday.
Abdullahi stated the troops conducting Exercise GOLDEN DAWN in the community were not responsible for the arson and destruction of properties around Ishieke junction.
The Army official stated that the outlawed group should be held responsible for the atrocities committed in the area during enforcement of the sit-at-home order.
He submitted that the troops killed one of the gunmen suspected to be IPOB/ESN members while one soldier was also killed during the gun duel.
The statement reads: “Troops conducting Exercise GOLDEN DAWN have dispersed IPOB/ESN hoodlums carrying out arson while enforcing the illegitimate Sit-at-Home order imposed by the proscribed group at AWO-MMAMMA Community, Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State on 22 November 2021.
“In the quest to compel citizens to comply with the unlawful order, IPOB/ESN criminals indulged in harassment, intimidation and physical abuse of commuters going about their lawful businesses. The criminals went further to carry out arson and destruction of businesses and homes at Ishieke junction (along Owerri-Onitsha expressway) as a vendetta against the citizens for not complying with the illegal order.
“The hoodlums, who had earlier blocked the highway, set ablaze a commercial vehicle heading towards Onitsha. Vigilant troops responding to distress calls by motorists and shop owners swiftly moved to the scene and engaged the hoodlums in a firefight. The troops overwhelmed the hoodlums forcing them to scamper in different directions.
“The troops pursued the hoodlums to their hideout in Akatta Community in Oru East LGA, where a member of the group was neutralized in the shootout. While the troops engaged the hoodlums in their hideout, other members of the group who alleged that some individuals had volunteered information to the troops mustered at Ishieke junction and set ablaze houses and businesses of law-abiding citizens.
“The troops again returned to the junction to disperse the hoodlums. Unfortunately, a gallant soldier paid the supreme prize in defence of the people.
“It is on record that since the sad events of 5 April 2021 when some unscrupulous elements invaded the Custodial Centre in Owerri and freed more than 1,800 inmates, there has been an upsurge in criminalities such as kidnapping, car hijacking, robbery, unwarranted killing and arson in Imo State. These criminal elements have since then wreaked havoc in the state and its environs.”