The Nigerian military is denying militants' claims that the military bungled an attempt to rescue two British hostages being held in the troubled Niger Delta region. In an email message, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said Saturday night's alleged botched rescue mission caused the militants to separate the hostages and moved them deeper into the territory under their control.
Lt. Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for the military's Joint Task Force in Niger Delta, told VOA the militants' claim of a failed rescue attempt is a mere propaganda.
"The operation we conducted on Friday and into the wee hours of Saturday was aimed to flush out militants from identified militant camps. We wouldn't have attacked those camps if we knew there were hostages in that area. So the claims by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta," he said.
Musa said the Joint Task Force attacked the camp to recover arms and ammunitions.
"We have not attacked the camp to free any hostages. The camp we attacked was purely a militant camp to arrest militants and recover arms and ammunitions. We attacked that camp on Friday and we mopped up the general area in the early hours of Saturday to ensure maintenance of law throughout the Niger Delta," he said.
He said the military had intelligence of criminal activities in the camp that was attacked.
"Our intelligence report hinted that most of the criminal activities going on in the part of Rivers State in terms of adoptions, sea piracy, arms robbery, and maiming of hostages are being learned, customized and executed from that camp," Musa said.
Musa said the Nigerian government was seriously concerned about the rate of piracy in the Niger Delta region.