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Jones Abiri abducted at gunpoint in Bayelsa by suspected DSS operatives

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BAYELSA-based journalist, Jones Abiri, has been allegedly snatched by armed men believed to be members of the Department of State Services, DSS.

The publisher and editor-in-chief of Weekly Source newspaper was reportedly having a conversation  with colleagues at the secretariat of the Bayelsa Publishers’ Office, Yenagoa, on Saturday when the “arrest” took place.

Kingsley Ladein, also a Yenagoa-based journalist, revealed that a white Hilux and black jeep pulled out from Ayabowei Plaza, then armed men jumped out, threatening to shoot Abiri if he moved.

He was then pushed into the Hilux as both cars zoomed off. “The guns carried were similar to those carried by the secret service,” Ladein said.

Providing details in another report, he said the arrest was conducted in a “gestapo fashion” and under gun point. “Currently his whereabouts is unknown,” he added.

Speaking to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Alagoa Morris, an environmental activist and contributor to the Weekly Source, confirmed he received reports of the arrest from colleagues and residents of Abiri’s hometown.

Attempts made by the CPJ and other news agencies to get a statement from DSS spokesperson Peter Afunanya were reported to be unsuccessful.

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Abiri was first arrested in July 2016 by the DSS and was accused of belonging to a militant group.

“Jones Abiri aka General Akotebe DARIKORO was arrested by this Service in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. DARIKORO is the leader of the Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force (JNDLF), which has been furthering separatist tendencies in connivance with other criminal gangs in the Niger Delta region,” read the statement issued by the DSS.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed also claimed he was involved in pipeline vandalism, crude theft, and including militant activities in the Niger Delta. Following consistent campaign by journalists and civil society organisations, he was finally arraigned before a court in July 2018 on charges of “criminal intimidation”.

In September, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ruled that Abiri’s arrest and prolonged detention were unlawful, and awarded the sum of N10.5 million against the DSS.

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'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via aadebajo@icirnigeria.org or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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