The Nigerian military recorded fatalities outside its Northeast theater of operation on Saturday as armed bandits ambushed its troops in the North Central state of Niger killing 11 military personnel.
Confirming the deadly attack which occurred in Bosso Local Government Area (LGA) of Niger State, Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, said it was carried out by suspected gunrunners and armed bandits.
The slain military personnel were on “cordon and search” operation in the area when they were ambushed by the armed bandits.
Among those killed was an officer whose rank was not stated. Eight soldiers of the Nigerian Army and two airmen of the Nigerian Airforce were also killed. As at press time, a soldier was still missing.
Explaining how the tragic incident occurred, Usman, in a statement, said, “following covert surveillance and intelligence reports on the activities of some gun runners and armed bandits in Kopa, Dagma and Gagaw villages of Bosso LGA, Niger State, troops of 31 Artillery Brigade, 1 Division Nigerian Army, in conjunction with Nigeria Air Force detachment on Internal Security Operation MESA went on quick cordon and search in the affected areas to recover suspected weapon cache and arrest the suspected persons and the armed bandits.”
He said, “while approaching and deploying to carry out their lawful duty, the troops came under simultaneous and sporadic shootings in all the three locations. They however responded as necessary in line with the rules of engagement.
“Sadly, an officer and eight soldiers of the Nigerian Army and two Airmen of the Nigeria Air Force lost their lives in the line of national duty. Additionally, one soldier is still missing while two of their colleagues were seriously wounded.”
The Army Spokesman said that the suspected gunrunners and armed bandits also burnt down four operational vehicles and vandalised two others.
He said the suspected bandits carted away four AK-47 rifles and one Fabrique Nationale (FN) rifle belonging to the slain soldiers.
The troops, according to the defence spokesman, however killed eight of the armed bandits and arrested 57 others. Also, large quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered.
Armong the weapons recovered, according to Usman, were: “three AK-47 rifles,10 Local AK-47 rifles, nine locally made pistols, six revolver guns, which fires 7.62mm (Special ammunition), 45 loaded dane guns, 10 clubs and cudgels, 41 arrows, 18 bow cases, 122 cutlasses and machetes as well as 20 daggers.”
Other items recovered include 31 axes, 63 rounds of 7.62 (special) ammunition, 10 Bajaj motorcycles, assorted charms and amulets, two vehicles, 38 mobile telephone handsets, a wristwatch, five identity cards, passport photographs, the sum of N23,870.00k, five Japanese Yen and 35 different denominations of old Nigerian currency, 15 catapults, eight torchlights, two gun powder bottles, four empty cases of ammunition and 41 cartridges.
He said the troops also seized a military waist belt and a pair of military combat boots.
Usman said the nefarious activities of the gunrunners and the armed bandits had direct bearing on the influx of weapons and general insecurity in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Northwest geo-political zone of the country.
The military officer said the same gunrunners had been confirmed to be the suppliers of arms to armed robbery gangs that were involved in series of robbery attacks on Minna-Bida road and along that axis.
Although, he said, the situation was under control, the defence spokesman added that the military would not rest on its oars until all those involved were arrested and brought to justice.
Noting that contrary to statements attributed to “some questionable vested interests”, the troops were on legitimate official duty aimed at safeguarding lives and property of citizens in the area, Usman urged all law abiding citizens “to go about their lawful duties as the cordon and search operation continues in the general area and if necessary expand to other identified areas to keep our people safe.”
He assured that the military would continue to deal with any violent threat to national security.