Residents of Akpawfu, Amagunze and Akpugo communities in Enugu State have fled their homes following an alleged military operation in the communities.
The is not unconnected with the attack on a police checkpoint at a neighbouring community of Obeagu Uno where six cops were killed by yet to be identified gunmen, it was gathered.
Sources in the communities told The PUNCH that the soldiers numbering over 40, stormed the communities in four armoured vehicles and were stationed at strategic roads connecting the communities.
One of the sources from Agudene village in Akpwafu said that the soldiers claimed that they were looking for members of the Indigenous People of Biafra’s Eastern Security Network alleged to be camped in forests there.
He said that some houses belonging to community members whom they alleged were used to harbour criminals and plan attacks on security infrastructure were demolished.
Another villager who also spoke on condition of anonymity said the soldiers were attracted to the areas upon discovery of a burnt Hilux van abandoned near St Philip Catholic Church, Akpawfu. He added that the van was said to be one of the vehicles the gunmen used to attack the police checkpoint on Wednesday.
Another source in one of the communities told our correspondent that youths fled the communities fearing that the soldiers purportedly attached to the 82 Divisional headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Enugu might use the opportunity of the cops’ killings to brutalise them.
A villager in one of the communities identified as Onyekachukwu Onovo, said, “Right now, young men in the community and even women have fled the community as the soldiers claimed that those houses being searched were used as camps by the gunmen.
“For me, I don’t know if that is true. Why soldiers are punishing us is what I don’t understand. Our youths are running away to other towns because we know that the soldiers see the youth as targets.”
The traditional ruler of Adamagu Akpawfu, Igwe Christopher Nnamani, confirmed the invasion to our correspondent on the telephone.
He said, “People are calling me that there are soldiers in the villages in my community. I don’t know who they are looking for. I have told my subjects to remain calm until they arrest anyone. To the best of my knowledge they have not arrested anyone but people are calling me and they are running away from the villages. Some are running to my own village.”
On whether the army told the reason behind the invasion, he said “Nobody has told me anything as the reason for the invasion. I have not even seen the soldiers with my eyes, only that people are running and that soldiers are in their villages. I am a traditional ruler and if there should be military operations in my community, I should be informed. In this case nobody told me why the soldiers invaded my community.”
Attempt to speak with the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 82 DV, Enugu, Col. Abubakar Abdullahi, was not successful as his phone rang out. He also did not respond to text messages sent to his mobile at the time of filing this report.
The state police spokesperson, Daniel Ndukwe, when contacted on telephone said that the police were not involved in the operation.