Nigerian Air Force helicopter gunship has been 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.
It was 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.
It was gathered that 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 said 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.
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.