The Nigerian Navy (NN), Central Naval Command (CNC) says some suspected sea robbers have been arrested in connection to the killing of four naval ratings and the abduction of two Russians and an Indian, off the Ramos River entrance, bordering Delta and Bayelsa states, on January 2.
Confirming the rescue of the expatraites during a press briefing held at the Warri Naval Base, the Flag Officer Commanding Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, disclosed that one of the suspects was arrested with a weapon.
He said that four naval ratings and some of the assailants died in the attack that saw the stealing of a Sterling Global Oil vessel, MV AMBIKA.
Flanked by the Commander, NNS Delta, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, and other Navy personnel, he added that others who escaped with bullet wounds are currently being hunted with the support of local youths of the area.
“They are on the run. We are going to pursue them like rats. Wherever they go to, we are going to get them out. Presently, we have a few of them and I can assure you that we will leave no stone unturned until we arrest them and bring them to justice,” Rear Admiral Garba declared.
Noting that the operation was swiftly carried out by a combined team of the command, as well as the land and air components of Operation Delta Safe at about 10:30pm on Tuesday, the FOC revealed that the kidnapped trio, two Russians, Roman Dimitriev, 34, Mikhail Finenko, 31 and 29 year-old Indian, Varunraj Anandan, were moved to Ondo state, where they were rescued.
He emphasized that the incident occurred about 3.2 nautical miles into the sea, between the two states.
“Following intelligence report on the activities of the group and their plans to relocate the victims to Ondo state, military units across the Niger Delta region were placed on red alert while the criminals were constantly been monitored.
“At about 22:30, January 7, intelligence report revealed that the abducted victims had been moved to a location around Awoye in Ilaje LGA of Ondo state. Accordingly, personnel of the Forward Operating Base, Igbokoda, were alerted of this development and laid siege for the criminals. In a surgical operation, the NN team rescued all abducted expatraites comprising two Russians and one Indian.
“Also, one of the assailants was apprehended with his weapon and the boat that was used to convey the victims, while other members of the group fled into a nearby creek with bullet injuries. They are presently even hunted down with the support of the community youth. The rescued victims have been given medical attention by a team of doctors from the Nigerian Navy Hospital, Warri and are healthy,” Garba stated.
He warned criminal elements operating within the Niger Delta to steer clear of the region, as the “Navy is poised to rid the region of all forms of illegality,” further urging well-meaning Nigerians to go about their legitimate businesses.
Meanwhile, the rescued trio, who appeared physically fit and unhurt, have expressed gratitude to the Navy for rescuing them alive.
Speaking on their behalf, the Indian, Anandan, said they spent six days in the den of the kidnappers without food and water.
Recalling the attack, he said, “last Thursday night, we heard a gunshot. Our Chief officer raised the alarm and we observed all the protocols. Pirates had got our second officer. When the chief officer heard their voice he had to open the door and asked what they wanted to do. The guys were already aboard the vessel. They lifted two of our guys off the vessel.”
Anandan added, “it is because of their (Navy) immediate response that we are here today. Because we were lost in the ocean for the past six days without food, no water to keep ourselves alive. Once they came to the river, the Navy team successfully fought those guys and sent them back to were they came from. They didn’t give them a small amount of time to retrieve. They did a very good job”.