At least 9 persons, including 3 personnel of the Nigerian Military were reportedly killed following an attack by gunmen in Tashan Kare and Yakila communities in Rafi local government area of Niger State.
Efforts to speak with the Police in the state proved abortive as the Police Public Relations Officer, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Wasiu Abiodun did not respond to his calls and text messages.
But, a statement by the Coordinator Defence Media Operations, Defence Headquarters, Major General John Enenche published on the website of the Defense Headquarters, said troops of Operation Whirl Punch engaged the bandits in a gun duel in which an unspecified number of the bandits were killed; however, three soldiers were killed, and two others wounded.
According to Major General Enenche, “In continuation of the aggressive clearance operation to rid criminal elements out of the North-Central region of the country, troops of Operation WHIRL PUNCH, has recorded tremendous success against armed bandits. Following credible intelligence on the activities of armed bandits attack at Tashan Kare, in Niger State.
“Troops swiftly mobilized to the scene and made contact with the bandits. The gallant troops engaged the armed bandits with superior fire power killing unspecified number while others fled in disarray into the bushes.
“Sadly own troops suffered 3 casualties while 2 others were wounded in action. Exploitation is on going. Details to follow.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Adamu Usman only confirmed to the News Agency of Nigeria the abduction of a Chinese expatriate and a Nigerian, at Yakila but refused to speak on those killed.
Channels Television further gathered that the attackers first stormed Yakila community at about 12:00noon on Monday and opened fire on expatriates and some Nigerian citizens who were working on the rehabilitation of Minna Zungeru road.
On hearing the gunshots, a team of security operatives mainly mobile policemen engaged the bandits in a gun shootout which lasted for more than three hours.
A resident in the area and staff of the National Orientation Agency Iliyasu Mohammed also confirmed the incident to Channels Television via telephone conversation.
According to him, when the bandits arrived Yakila, they started shooting, and then went after the expatriates and construction workers that were working on the road.
Mohammed said the security operatives that were stationed at a signal office around the area responded to the attack which resulted in exchange of gunfire between the bandits and the security personnel.
He said the security personnel sent the bandits on their heels up to a river around Pandogari before returning back, but that 5 of the bandits were reportedly killed, while the security operatives suffered some casualties.
Also, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Abubakar Bello on Security matters, Colonel MK Maikundi (retired) confirmed the attack to newsmen.
The latest attack comes barely a week after gunmen attacked Ukuru community in Mariga local government area of the state killing at least fifteen persons, including four vigilante members.
Governor Abubakar Bello, reacting to the attack at the time through a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary Mary Noel-Berje said his administration and the federal government would fine-tune the security strategy in the state to dislodge the armed men.
The Governor who commiserated with families of the victims of the attack had also enjoined them to be vigilant and report activities of anybody they considered alien to them.
According to the statement, Governor Abubakar Bello had also visited a special military camp in Katsina alongside his colleague, the Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai to inspect the camp and also seek ways to strengthen the issue of border patrol as the state shares border with neighbouring states in the northwest.
Niger State has come under serious security threats in the last one year due to activities of bandits, with hundreds of persons killed, and thousands of others displaced.