A soldier and two operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were  shot dead on Sunday following a gun duel with suspected militants in Rivers.

The security operatives were killed and their weapons carted away while preventing militants from vandalising an oil and gas facility in Gio community, Tai area of Rivers.

Col. Aminu Iliyasu,the spokesman of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, confirmed the killings in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday.

“The suspected militants attacked troops of 29 Battalion, 6 Division, with personnel of NSCDC in the early hours of Sunday.

“The team which was guarding Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Trans National Pipelines (TNP) in Gio community prevented the militants from vandalising 24 and 28 of the TNP.

“Unfortunately, during the ensuing gunfire, one soldier and two personnel of NSCDC lost their lives and their weapons, one AK 47 and two G3 rifles, carted away by the assailants,” he said.

Iliyasu said the army later deployed more troops to the area with intent to apprehend the fleeing militants as well as other criminals in the community.

He said the cordon and search operation led to another gun duel with  alleged cultists and an oil bunkering kingpin wanted by security agencies in the state.

The spokesman said Korobe Menele, a prime suspect in the killing of the security operatives, was shot dead in the gun duel with troops.

“At about 9 a.m. on Sunday, troops acting on reliable intelligence sighted a white Toyota Hilux that was without number plate. The vehicle was hastily driven with four occupants.

“Efforts to stop the vehicle by troops at a check point were ignored. However, troops chased the speeding vehicle and caught up with it around Kira Junction, along Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic.

“Sensing danger, the occupants opened fire at troops in a bid to escape. But, troops reacted and incapacitated the militants vehicle.

“Thereafter, they abandoned their vehicle and fled into the bush. However, one of the criminals was gunned down and was later identified as Korob Menele, a notorious cultist and oil bunkering kingpin,” he said.

Iliyasu said troops were currently on the trail of the three other fleeing suspects who had sustained gunshot injuries during the exchange of gunfire with soldiers.

He listed items recovered from the vehicle as one K2 rifle, two magazines with 52 rounds of 5.56mm one number plate, KRK 95DP Rivers, and some personal effects, including documents.

According to him, the body of the suspected cultist and recovered items had been handed over to NSCDC for further action.