From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
The police have confirmed the abduction of scores of passengers, last weekend, by suspected herdsmen in Abia State. The bandits were said to have wounded two soldiers and set an army van ablaze.
Over 30 heavily armed men, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, last weekend, reportedly abducted all the occupants of three buses. The gunmen, who were said to have had a free day while the operation lasted, blocked the Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway between Leru Junction and the Ihube axis, abducting the passengers in the process.
Although the state command’s PPRO, Geoffrey Ogbonna, could not pick calls made to his mobile phone, nor respond to text messages, a reliable police source, who would not want his name in print, confirmed the incident.
It was gathered that the bandits took advantage of the Saturday evening downpour to block the highway at Ihube, causing gridlock which stretched to Leru junction, as commuters mistook them for policemen on roadblock.
The bandits said to be heavily armed were reported to have attacked a team of soldiers drafted to the scene following a distress call. The hoodlums allegedly wounded two of the soldiers, set the military van on fire, before forcing all occupants of three buses into the bush at gunpoint.
A youth leader in Umunneochi, who spoke with newsmen, said some of the commuters, who had alighted to find out the cause of the gridlock, took to their heels when the bandits opened fire on a military van that came to rescue people.
He said the latest incident has put fear and anxiety among people in the area.
Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnayo, confirmed the incident to newsmen. Chikamnanyo, who is also the Secretary of Umunneochi Security Committee, recently inaugurated by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to tackle the intractable security challenges in the area, however, said the incident took place within the Imo State axis of the expressway.
The Army Public Relations Officer, 14 Brigade, Ohafia, Lt. Innocent Omale, could not be reached for comments as he told newsmen he was in a conference when contacted.
However, a source from the state command said police were working round the clock to ensure that the victims were rescued and their abductors arrested.