Army denies attack on cargo boat on Bonny River

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The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has denied that the military helicopters fired at a cargo boat conveying people and food stuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

It was widely reported on Friday that a military chopper opened fire on cargo boat conveying food stuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny.

Reacting to the allegation in a statement on Monday, the Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Sawyerr, said the report was false.

Sawyerr said that the Air Component of the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), received reports from ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance at the point of encounter.

According to him, on receiving the report a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel. He said that the helicopter encountered an illegal oil bunkering boat popularly called “Cotonou Boat”.

“The attention of the military has been drawn to a purported report by some print and online media stating that “the military fired at a cargo boat conveying people and food stuff from Port Harcourt to Bonny”. This report is false and calls to question the credibility of the online news medium.

“Contrary to the report, the Air Component of the Joint Task Force Operation DELTA SAFE (OPDS) received reports from ground troops who were on clearance operations but encountered resistance at the point of encounter. On receiving the report a combat helicopter was dispatched to provide close air support mission along the Cawthorne Channel.

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“The helicopter encountered an illegal oil bunkerers’ boat popularly called “Cotonou Boat”. The boat which was being escorted by 2 speedboats was suspected to be carrying illegally refined oil products in large drums along the Channel in the direction of OPDS patrol boats. On sighting the boat, warning shots were fired to dissuade the crew from hostile action. The crew fired back at the helicopter and the boat was engaged accordingly.

“The 2 speedboats detached from the convoy at high speed leaving the “Cotonou Boat” which was neutralized. The helicopter later went after the 2 speedboats but was unable to track it. The suspects are still at large and a manhunt has been sent out to apprehend them.

“The military remains a professional institution that operates in line with best practices through the application of rule of engagement and code of conduct. It is also positioned to protect the populace rather than victimizing them. Efforts by anyone to protect criminality by disparaging the actions of the Military in preventing economic sabotage and other sundry crimes need to be condemned by all.

“The general public is therefore enjoined to disregard the report and continue providing accurate information to troops that will lead to the attainment of own operational mandate of safeguarding lives, properties as well as government assets in the South South region”. He added.