Sunday, 17 August 2008

MEND's Operation Paul And Silas Described As A Hoax

The widely reported "Operation Paul And Silas(OPAS)of the MOVEMENT FOR THE EMANCIPATION OF NIGER DELTA(MEND)have been described as a hoax by our strategically placed contacts.

OPAS is the codename of an operation in which MEND claimed recently via an e-mail to news media organizations that its "elite commando unit" on 14th August, 2008, stormed "the heavily fortified hideout" of the group that kidnapped the two Julius Berger workers and successfully rescued the two Germans, messrs Jungen Vetten, aged 43 and Bernd Mechlen, aged 60 "when it became apparent that the older of the men risked loosing his life from injuries sustained during the initial attack if delayed".

Well placed security contacts however, informed chidi opara reports that OPAS is a face saving propaganda by the Niger Delta main militant group. A security contact in Portharcourt, Rivers State informed us that "MEND, infact as usual through one of its affiliate groups, kidnapped and kept the Julius Berger workers for ransom". "The bubble" the contact continued "bursted when the older hostage became very ill beyond what MEND's makeshift healthcare system could cope with". "Fearing the negative publicity and its attendant implications the death of the man in their custody will generate, it became imperative that the two men will have to be released somehow, but not without ransom".

A security contact in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city who participated in the negotiations for the release of the hostages under cover as a Julius Berger senior staffer told us that the initial demand was fifty million US dollars, which was rejected. "We rejected theirs and offered twenty, this angered them, resulting in the quit order to Julius Berger", the contact averred. "By the time they told us how critical Bernd's health condition was, we upped the ransom to twenty-five million US dollars and they accepted".

A security contact in Warri, Delta State told chidi opara reports that "the ransom was paid outside Nigeria". We were however not able so far to ascertain the exact location and mode of payment. Our contact inside MEND could not offer any clues. He however told us that "there is no elite commando unit or operation Paul and Silas. One of our small groups were keeping the men, when we asked them to release them to us, they did".

When we contacted MEND's spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo for comments via e-mail, he/she informed us that there was no ransom. He/she further told us that the information is a government propaganda to rubbish MEND.

In response to an earlier enquiry, the management of Julius Berger Plc insisted that they do not have a policy of paying ransom to armed gangs, but pleaded that the response should not be published then because their men were being held hostage at that time.

A contact inside the top management cadre of Julius Berger informed chidi opara reports that "we pay ransom through third parties, not directly".