The Nigerian Army said it had recovered 55 assorted weapons from suspected criminals in the Niger Delta.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division, Enugu, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahitu, told newsmen in Enugu on Saturday that the recoveries were made during a military exercise tagged “Operation Crocodile Smile”.
He also disclosed that 23 militants and criminals were killed by soldiers in their bid to flush out criminals in the area.
The GOC said many of the criminals fled with various degrees of injury.
He said 38 camps belonging to the militants and 91 illegal refineries, including bunkering sites and underground tunnels used by the suspects, were destroyed in the 10-day exercise.
“The precursor operations were followed by `Exercise Crocodile Smile’ proper, which was orchestrated and conducted with sequencing and lines of operation to upgrade the skills, expertise and competence of the troops in land and riverside environments.
“Over 3,000 soldiers were deployed along two axis on land, creeks and the general littoral area of the Niger Delta region, while forward-operating bases were established from where operations were conducted along the creeks and littoral area,’’ he said.
Attahiru, however, regretted that four soldiers died during the exercise, explaining that three lost their lives in a boat mishap while one died during cross fire with the militants.
He said the exercise was also used to cement relations with civilians through humanitarian services in neighbouring communities.
“Books, stationery materials and generators were donated to some schools while others were given facelift and infrastructure improvement.