From John Adams, Minna and Jude Chinedu, Enugu
It was another day of massacre in Niger State on Wednesday night as gunmen invaded a mining site in Ajata Aboki, in Erena district of Shiroro Local Government Area of the State, killing three soldiers, seven mobile policemen and 15 civilians working at the site.
The gunmen, who invaded the mining site in their large numbers, succeeded in abducting an unspecified number of Chinese nationals who, the locals said, were the target of the gunmen.
The mining site, according to a reliable source close to the community, is owned by a powerful figure in the state, and the area has remained a-no-go area for both the people of the community and visitors, and has remained heavily guarded by both soldiers and mobile policemen.
The mining site, which the Chairman of the local government, Mallam Suleiman Chukuba, is said to be fully aware of its existence, had survived many attacks by gunmen, who have continued to raid communities in the area in the last five years, but had, hitherto, avoided it.
A source close to the community said over 50 gunmen were also neutralized by the soldiers who engaged them in a fierce battle which began at about 4:00pm.
Those soldiers killed in an ambush, according to our source, were those who came for reinforcement after the gunmen had invaded the mining site.
The gunmen, who were said to be in four groups, used their numerical strength to inflict heavy casualties on the soldiers.
The State government, while confirming the attacks by the gunmen, did not give the number of casualties, but said a joint security team was mobilised to the scene, in response to the distress call.
The Commissioner for Internal Security, Mr. Emmanuel Umar, in a statement, said: “There were yet to be a determined number of casualties from both sides.
“However, a yet to be ascertained number of workers in the mining site, including two Chinese nationals, were reported to have been abducted.
“Security forces mobilised reinforcement for the manhunt of the remaining terrorists, as some of them were neutralised while the injured victims were rescued; security personnel who sustained various degrees of injuries were, also, taken to a government medical facility in the state for treatment.”
The statement further added that “state government acknowledged all the efforts of the joint security operatives and the communities in the State towards taming the spate of insecurity in some parts of the state, hence, security personnel are enjoined not to be discouraged in discharging their sacred duties of protecting citizens against all forms of threats, as government will continue to be steadfast in providing them with the needed support in all ramifications.”
Also, three policemen were feared dead as gunmen attacked a checkpoint at Akwuke junction, in Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The incident reportedly occurred yesterday morning, around 9:30am. The number of casualties in the attack was still unclear at the time of filing this report, though witnesses said three officers were killed.
A source close to the community, over 50 gunmen were also neutralized by the soldiers who engaged them in a fierce battle which began at about 4:00pm.
A witness, who did not want his name in print, said: “As we speak, people are still running helter-skelter as the gunmen are still shooting sporadically. I am calling you from my hiding place.
“The checkpoint the hoodlums attacked is in front of MTD Police Station in Akwuke, opposite Boom Plaza, near Tipper Park, before Enugu – Port-Harcourt Highway.
“I don’t know the extent of casualties, but what I heard is that the gunmen have already killed three policemen. When I was passing the checkpoint around 8:30am, the operatives were six in number.”
Meanwhile, the police in Enugu have confirmed the incident.
The spokesman of the state police command, Daniel Ndukwe, said the operatives were on stop-and-search when they were attacked.
Part of the statement reads: “There was an attack on policemen on stop-and-search duty this morning, along Agbani Road, close to Enugu-Port-Harcourt Expressway, by yet-to-be identified hoodlums.
“However, details of the incident are still sketchy, while Command’s Tactical/Operational Operatives have been mobilised and are on the trail of the miscreants. Further development will be communicated, please.”
The statement was, however, silent on the number of casualties. But a witness said that at least three policemen were shot dead during the attack. Sources said there was heavy shooting at the popular MTD junction, in Akwuke, as the operatives engaged the gunmen in a shootout.