There was panic in Orlu, Njaba and Orsu Local Government Areas of Imo State on Thursday, following a combined military and police operation in search of Eastern Security Network (ESN) camps and members.

ESN is a security arm of the separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The Nation learnt that there has been a heavy security presence in the communities since last Friday, with the military combing forests in the communities and dislodging hoodlums therein.

But, residents were alarmed yesterday when the military stepped up their operations with helicopters hovering over the areas.

Spokesperson of the Army’s 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze in Owerri, Babatunde Zubairu, confirmed the deployment of aircraft and other military gadgets.

He said the operation was an offshoot of military intelligence, adding that locals were not being harassed.

The House member representing Orlu Constituency, Ekene Nnodumele, declined comment, saying that the House was in plenary.

But the traditional ruler of Orlu – a neighbouring council area where the military and ESN officials clashed on January 25 – Eze Emmanuel Okeke, told The Nation that he was not aware of any fresh security operation in his domain.

An indigene of Umunam Atta Community in Njaba council area, Andrew Ibe, corroborated the military’s humane treatment of people in his community.

Ibe said: “The truth of the matter is that the soldiers are not beating anyone. But our concern here is that there may be shooting any moment since their helicopter is hovering over our houses.

“Again, they arrested one of our respected indigenes who is a priest in the Sabbath Church here. Since Saturday, when he was arrested, nobody has told us why that is so”.

An Indigene of Uda Orsuihiteukwa in Orsu told The Nation that although no one was shot by the military, the operation was causing panic.

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