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Nigerian Military Conducts Preemptive Air Strikes In Southeast

The Nigerian Air Force has deployed a helicopter gunship to carry out preemptive airstrikes in Imo and Anambra States, Southeast Nigeria.

A Nigerian Air Force helicopter gunship was deployed to support a pre-emptive assault on an Eastern Security Network (ESN) enclave, the militant wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in South-eastern Nigeria.

HumAngle gathered from intelligence sources that the ongoing operation in Orlu and Orsu border area of Imo and Anambra states was initiated to counter an imminent threat and escalation.

Several videos have appeared showing the attack from a Nigerian Air Force MI-35p or MI-24v gunship deployed for the operation. There is also what appeared to be the gunships firing rockets, and a heavy machine gun burst fire could be heard in another video.

HumAngle understands the rockets’ use is consistent with air operations intended to cause minor damage to targets and reduce the possibility of civilian casualties.

However, sources and online comments are concerned about the possibility of civilian casualties.

Eyewitnesses disclosed that the gunship flew low above houses, commercial neighbourhoods and forest areas.

Sources in the two states informed HumAngle that the gunship operation began on Feb. 14, noting that the military build-up is ongoing as at the time of filing this report.

On Dec. 13, 2020, the proscribed IPOB announced the launch of ESN, a militant-style unit the group said was formed to address security challenges in the Southeast.

Multiple videos have been released online showing ESN conducting combat drills and holding military-grade rifles.

ESN members in a propaganda video

In Jan., Nigerian Army troops stormed Orlu, the second-largest city in Imo State after the capital Owerri, to search for and possibly neutralise members of the IPOB ESN.

The incident was preceded by reports of harassment of locals, destruction of government properties and skirmishes with security personnel.

There are indications that the brewing crisis and rebellion in the Southeast require intelligence-based security interventions and concrete efforts to address the underlying stressors sustaining the agitation.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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