Others engaged in setting homes and businesses ablaze in the state have been dispersed, the spokesperson for the 82 Division, Abubakar Abdullahi, said on Tuesday.
“Troops conducting Exercise Golden Dawn have dispersed IPOB-ESN hoodlums carrying out arson while enforcing the illegitimate sit-at-home order imposed by the proscribed group at Awo-Mmamma community on Monday, November 22.
“In the quest to compel citizens to comply with the unlawful order, IPOB/ESN criminals indulged in harassment, intimidation and physical abuse of commuters going about their lawful businesses.
“The criminals went further to carry out arson and destruction of businesses and homes at Ishieke junction (along Owerri-Onitsha expressway) as a vendetta against the citizens for not complying with the illegal order.
“The hoodlums, who had earlier blocked the highway, set ablaze a commercial vehicle heading towards Onitsha.
“Vigilant troops responding to distress calls by motorists and shop owners swiftly moved to the scene and engaged the hoodlums in a firefight.
“The troops overwhelmed the hoodlums forcing them to scamper in different directions.
“The troops pursued the hoodlums to their hideout in Akatta community in Oru East Local Government Area, where a member of the group was neutralised in the shootout.
“While the troops engaged the hoodlums in their hideout, other members of the group who alleged that some individuals had volunteered information to the troops, mustered at Ishieke junction and set ablaze houses and businesses of law-abiding citizens.
“The troops again returned to the junction to disperse the hoodlums. Unfortunately, a gallant soldier paid the supreme prize in defence of the people,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson recalled that since the events of April 5, when the Custodial Centre, Owerri was invaded and over 1,800 inmates freed, there’s been an upsurge in crime in Imo.
He said crimes such as kidnapping, car-jacking, robbery, unwarranted killings and arson had been on the increase in the state.
“Even in the face of unwholesome propaganda by IPOB/ESN, other criminal elements and their collaborators to misinform Nigerians on the truth regarding the arson at Awo-Mmamma, the Nigerian Army will continue to remain professional.
“The Nigerian Army appeals to the good people of Imo State to ignore the propaganda and threats by IPOB and its affiliate groups.
“Despite their deceitful call cancelling the Monday sit-at-home order, IPOB members have continued to intimidate and harass citizens who come out to do their legitimate businesses,” he added.