By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyandongha , Perez Brisibe and Chancel Bomadi
WHEN under arrest Bayelsa abduction linchpin and sea bandit, Kareowei, ran rings at Ndoro community, Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, last Wednesday, with a decapitated head of an operative of the Department of State Service, DSS, dripping with blood, some elders of the riverine settlement prophesied that he, who the gods want to destroy, they first make to run mad.
Barely a week after, the dreaded criminal and political mercenary, suspected to have been armed by some politicians within and outside the state, was ambushed by soldiers at Torugbene community, Burutu Local Government Area, Delta State, where he had ran to a traditional doctor to treat him of bullet wounds he allegedly sustained on his shoulder and leg in a battle with soldiers.
Kareowei, who attacked a military formation at Ogbagbabene in Delta state, last year, and carted away a General Purpose Machine Gun, GPMG, kidnapped some foreign missionaries in Delta and killed one of them, Ian Squire, also last year, had in the last few days, massacred at least four soldiers and injured many others, who were on his trail after he murdered the DSS operative on a peace mission to his camp.
But in the early hours of Thursday, he was like a rabbit smoked out of his hole, as he pleaded with heavily armed soldiers, who cordoned off the community where he was taking refuge, not to kill him.
As at the time of this report, the whereabouts of a former militant leader and member of the Delta Waterways and Land Security Committee, DWSLC, Bonny Gawei, who accompanied the DSS operative to his den, last Wednesday, were unknown.
Since Kareowei ran away from his camp at Ndoro area, which also came under military bombardment, it is feared that something might have happened to the former militant leader from Delta state.
Findings by Saturday Vanguard showed that Kareowei now cooling his heels in one of the cells at the Operation Delta Safe headquarters in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state, is one of the outlaws that terrorized both Bayelsa and Delta states.
Soft-landing deal that backfired
A source, who is abreast with his escapades told Saturday Vanguard: “Kareowei matter is complicated; it did not just start with the event of last Wednesday, where he killed a DSS operative that came to his camp on a peace mission. What happened is that he had a discussion with his friend, Bonny Gawei, who was arranging a soft landing for him.”
“Gawei invited Kareowei to Asaba, capital of Delta State in furtherance of the mission and he received him on arrival. This was sometime, last year. He was checked into a hotel. But somehow, somebody alerted Kareowei that it could be a setup to pick him up and he invited somebody to come and stay in the hotel, while he hibernated elsewhere.
Escape from Asaba
“Not long after, security operatives actually invaded the hotel and picked up the mole invited to stay in the room. He fled Asaba and successfully returned to Bayelsa.
“He got back to his friend, Gawei, with the information that he was working with security agents to ensnare him, instead of the soft-landing both of them discussed. Gawei vehemently denied the charge, saying that it was coincidental, as he, himself, having being pardoned and accepted amnesty, would want Kareowei, to be officially pardoned and walk the streets a free man.
“Because of what both of them shared together in the past, Kareowei reluctantly believed him, but said he would no longer come to Asaba for any negotiation on the matter. He insisted that any further discussion on the matter should be held in his den.
Ill-fated mission to Ndoro
“Gawei, who was working with some security agents to bring peace to the region agreed with his terms and a meeting was scheduled to hold in his camp at Ndoro axis, last Wednesday,” our reliable source said.
It was gathered that Bonny Gawei left for Kareowei’s camp with some armed security operatives, including soldiers, and called him on phone that he was on his way. But Kareowei’s men on surveillance called him at a point to notify him that Gawei was coming with armed security men and that they were coming to arrest him.
The kingpin called the DWLSC to inform him of his fears and that no security person should come to his camp with arms, otherwise it would be bloodbath. Gawei re-assured him that nobody was on the mission to arrest him and to demonstrate that they had no ulterior motive, the DSS operative volunteered to drop his arms and follow him to meet Kareowei for discussions.
Kareowei allegedly agreed to the terms, but when Gawei and the security operative got to his camp, he received another information that if the “visitors” were not killed, they would take him alive because there were armed soldiers waiting somewhere for them.
Suspicion in all places
Our source added: “Based on the information at his disposal and his strong suspicion that it could really be a setup, Kareowei personally handled the execution of the DSS operative and abducted his friend, who came with the official.”
“Gawei has not been seen alive since then and with Kareowei’s arrest, it is suspected that he and his boys might have harmed him before fleeing the camp, following the attack on him by soldiers.” he added.
An informant confided in Saturday Vanguard that incensed by the decapitation of the security operative, authorities of Operation Delta Safe ordered that Kareowei be arrested dead or alive.
Fire for fire
“That was how soldiers were let loose in the creeks of Ekeremor to track him down, but he seemed prepared, as he engaged them in a shootout when they invaded his den, supposedly killing four and injuring many others.
“The reported killing of soldiers compounded his matter, as military authorities commanded a total war against him. That was why nothing was spared by the soldiers, who razed houses and picked up anybody they believed would assist them trail his footsteps.
Ran out of arms
Kareowei reportedly ran out of ammunition and was injured in the battle; hence he fled Ndoro for Torugbene in Delta state, during the week.
Soldiers, who were acting on intelligence, went after him. They besieged his new hideout, where he was taking treatment in no less than 10 gun boats and completely took over the community. There was no escape route as there were insiders that gave them information.
Kareowei, who was also armed with up-to- minute communication gadgets, was getting information from both his boys and privileged sources. He fled the home of the traditional doctor, which soldiers did not find difficult locating when they arrived.
“He knew he had no way of escape from where he was because the soldiers were working with precise information on his movement and they outnumbered him. He also got phone calls when the man treating him was arrested and was told that he was being beaten mercilessly.
“The only option left to him was to surrender, which was why he started making calls to people to intervene and save him from death,” the informant added.
To the shock of villagers, the feared lynchpin came out of the bush, where he was hiding with his gun raised up in surrender and that was how soldiers picked him up, after a top official of the DWLSC, who appeared to be in the picture of the disastrous peace mission that came to Ndoro from Warri, probably as a last-minute effort to broker peace.
A resident, Kekeredi Aboy, told one of our reporters that soldiers arrested the girlfriend of the wanted militant leader and “shot sporadically into the air when they came and left at about 3.00 pm with Kareowei crying for mercy.”
A security operative asserted, “The manhunt is fallout of reports of alleged activities of some suspected militants, who had some celebrations in the community on New Year Day over the killing of security agents.”
Groups condemn killing of soldiers but…
Ijaw groups stood up to condemn the killing of security agents by Kareowei, who many said was a notorious criminal, but they frowned at the harassment of innocent citizens and homes of persons not connected with Kareowei and his men in the communities invaded by soldiers.
They also criticized the use of excessive force, which sent panic among law-abiding citizens and cordoning off the waterways, which hampered economic activities and business of others in a terrain where people cannot eat except they go on fishing.
Also lamenting the sad turn of event in Ndoro, an indigene and former Clerk of Mobile Parliament, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, Hon Living Mitin, blamed the politicians for the ongoing carnage in the area.
He said: “Politicians created these monsters. How did this boy get his weapons? He is not running short of supplies, he has sophisticated weapons, he does not have what it takes to buy these guns. He shoots sporadically into the air to stop people from attacking him.”
“In the last elections, I worked for PDP while he worked for the opposition party. We hail from the same community. I almost got killed by this same boy when I wanted to get materials to Ekeremor community. He is very deadly and needs to be taken seriously,” he said.
Mitin, who spoke 24 hours before Kareowei was arrested asserted, “He should be apprehended because if he comes back to the community, the people are in trouble. He has more information than the military. He knows who revealed information about him and will go after them with force and commit more damage than he did initially.”
Chairman of Central Zone of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Barrister Tari Porri, who spoke in the same vein, said: “First, we express our displeasure and dissatisfaction at the attitude of some of our boys in our respective communities. The situation there at Ndoro community was orchestrated by some of our political leaders, who buy these weapons and pay these young men to intimidate people during elections and after the election.”
His words: “This has brought us where we are today. This issue is a big problem. And the annoying thing is that when we reported to the security personnel, they would be after our life. It is very painful. This is a self -inflicted injury. Some of our political leaders celebrate these young boys more than the sane ones. As a zone and Ijaw Youth Council, we sympathize with those affected by the operations carried out.
“We condemn the act in its entirety. Cutting the head of a human being and celebrating with it is an abomination and we condemn it. We call on our community’s leaders and rulers to stop celebrating criminals. I am worried that if the military doesn’t succeed in apprehending the young man, his return will be deadly,” he said.
Porri asserted: “My appeal to the Chief of Army Staff is to please put up more efforts. We sympathize with the Nigerian Military on the killing of the officers and we plead that every operation should be carried out within the ambit of the law so that peaceful and law abiding citizens will not be affected by the operations.”
“We do not want this issue to be misinterpreted. This is a clear case of political leaders encouraging criminality and sponsoring our people against our people. We appreciate all their efforts and pray that the perpetrators are brought to book.
“We call on our political leaders, community leaders supporting criminals in our environment to stop. I call on youths of Bayelsa state that moving forward; we should not allow politicians to buy weapons for us to intimidate our fellow youths,” he added.
Gov Dickson fires at APC
As if collaborating the charge of community and IYC leaders in the area, the state governor
Seriake Dickson, Thursday, pointed fingers at leaders of APC in the state, who he also accused of arming criminals and terrorists to destabilize the state.
Dickson stated this at the state monthly transparency briefing held at the banquet Hall of Government in Yenagoa. He stated: “Let me condemn some criminal activities, including the one that has led to the military operation in Delta state bordering our state, about a certain Kareowei. I want to commend the military and the security forces for their efforts.”
“I want to call on the political leaders of Bayelsa, they should stop destabilizing the security of this state. They should stop playing politics with law and order in our communities. They should stop arming criminals and terrorists.” he said.
The governor said he had earlier issued a statement calling on the President of the Federal Republic to call his party leaders in the state to order before the recent carnage in the western axis of the state where soldiers were killed by a militant leader and the resultant suffering inflicted on innocent communities in the area.
The governor said some APC leaders in the state were using the name of the President to compromise security by intimidating security agencies, stockpiling arms and ammunition, killing and ransacking communities at will.
Ex-gov Sylva fires back
But the leader of APC in the state and former governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva, in a statement through his Media Adviser, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, dismissed Dickson’s claim as baseless.
The statement issued Thursday night read “Governor Seriake Dickson is at it again. He has returned to his notorious game of accusing the former governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, of sponsoring criminality in Bayelsa State.
“As always, Dickson has provided zero facts to support his irresponsibly frivolous claims that Sylva and Lokpobiri are providing cover for alleged cultists and other criminals.
“Sylva’s Media Office recalls that we have had cause in the past to accuse Governor Dickson of paranoia. Our response to this latest falsehood, especially the governor’s attempt to link Sylva with the outlaw that killed five soldiers in Ekeremor Local Government, is that Dickson needs urgent help.., the APC said