Four soldiers reportedly lost their lives yesterday when their boat capsized in Bayelsa State as the military began its Operation Crocodile Smile to crack down on agitators in the Niger Delta.
It was gathered that the sad incident occurred along the Brass waterfront in the Brass Local Government Area of the state at about 10am on Monday and has created panic among newly-deployed soldiers in the state.
Service rifles belonging to the missing soldiers were also said to be missing. Although there was no official statement on the mission of the four soldiers in the area, but sources said it was connected with ongoing security operations against renewed militancy and sea piracy, and search for persons threatening to hoist a Niger Delta Republic flag.
A resident of the community said an attempt by youths and other soldiers to stage a recovery mission failed, as the drowned soldiers could not be found.
It was also gathered that as at 2:00 p.m., military authorities had sought the help of local divers and youths in the search for the missing soldiers but one of the youths said high tide impeded the search.
The state chairman of the Maritime Union, Lyyod Sese, who confirmed the incident, said the union had received a report of the boat mishap but could not disclose the number of casualties.
An official of Brass Local Government Council, who pleaded anonymity, said it was a sad development, “but we thank God, it was a natural incident,” he added.
Meanwhile, Brigade Public Relations Officer, Capt. Kayode Owolabi, said that Operation Crocodile Smile, which had been launched in Rivers, Edo and Bayelsa states, would be commissioned by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai, in Calabar tomorrow.
He added that the mission would involve air, land and sea operations. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared support for the exercise.