The Nigerian army says security operatives conducted a raid on the headquarters of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) in Imo state on Saturday, during which the deputy commander of the group, identified as Ikonson commander, was killed.
Mohammed Yerima, army spokesman, confirmed the development, adding that six other top ESN members died during the operation.
Yerima alleged that Ikonson was the behind the recent attacks on the police command and the correctional centre in Imo state, adding that security operatives had been on his trail.
He explained that the joint operation was carried out by officers of the Nigerian army, police, and the Department of State Services (DSS).
In a statement on Saturday, the army spokesman said Ikonson was tracked to Awomama village in Imo state, during which a gun duel ensued.
However, four security operatives were said to have died during the operation.
“A combined team of security forces led by troops of the Nigerian Army have raided the operational Headquarters of the IPOB/ESN terrorists in Awomama Village, Oru East LGA of Imo State,” the statement reads.
“The early morning raid by troops of Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) was launched in the early hours of Saturday 24 April, 2021, following a detailed intelligence report on the location of the terrorists’ Operational Headquarters and the movement of the overall Commander popularly known as Ikonson Commander.
“The IRT and DSS teams along with troops of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army have been on the trail of the terror group since the unfortunate attacks on the Imo State Police Command and the Owerri Correctional Center on 5 April 2021.
“The said Ikonson Commander who was the mastermind of those attacks in addition to multiple attacks in the South East and South South regions, was neutralised along with 6 of his top Commanders.
“The joint intelligence team had earlier interviewed several arrested IPOB/ESN terrorists in connection with the April 5 attacks and they all confessed that Ikonson Commander who was named as Vice President by their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was the one that mobilized men and resources as well as ordered and orchestrated the attacks on Owerri.
“They equally revealed that Ikonson was responsible for many other attacks on Police stations across the two geo-political zones. The intelligence team later tracked the IPOB/ESN top leader to his exact location in Awomama village where he (Ikonson) and his to Commanders were hibernating and plotting dastardly acts against the Nigerian state.
“On noticing the presence of the joint operations team, IPOB/ESN terrorists brought heavy volume of fire on the raiding team who swiftly responded and overwhelmed them with superior fire power that neutralised Ikonson and six of his top Commanders. Sadly however, a Second Lieutenant and three IRT operatives paid the supreme price in the fire fight that ensued. The four officers who fought gallantly have already been evacuated to a military facility in Owerri.”
The army spokesman said three AK-47 rifles, a Toyota Sienna van, “drugs suspected to be psychotropic substances”, were among items recovered, while investigation has commenced into the incident.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru has commended the troops, the Police IRT and DSS operatives for their determination in ensuring that the operation was a success. He prayed for the repose of the souls of the gallant officers who lost their lives in the operation, stressing that their sacrifice will never be in vain,” Yerima added.