Abuja — NIGERIAN troops have shot dead one of the country's most notorious cultist and main oil theft suspect.
However, the operation south of the country came at a cost with the death of a soldier and two personnel from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The army and corps were guarding pipelines at the Tai town of the restive Rivers State when militants attacked.
Alleged cultist and illegal oil bunkering kingpin, Korobe Menele Love, was killed during the exchange of gunfire.
He was the prime suspect and had been on the wanted list of the security agencies for allegedly terrorizing communities in the oil-rich state.
"Others with him are believed to have escaped with gunshot wounds, leaving trails of blood," said Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, deputy spokesperson of the Nigerian Army.
The militants fled with some weapons of the deceased soldier and defence corps members.
"Troops continue to track the remaining fleeing bandits to face justice," Iliyasu assured.
Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham, commander of the army regiment in the state, reaffirmed the commitment of troops in protecting lives and properties of citizens in the afflicted region.
Rivers is located in the Niger Delta area, which is Nigeria's oil hub but among its most violent zones.
Militants accusing government and international oil companies exploiting the region are sabotaging oil production through theft, vandalism or terror attacks.