Eight persons were killed yesterday in a Lagos community where gunmen suspected to be militants and hoodlums struck. Many were injured.
In the militants’ raid on Ishawo, a settlement on the outskirts of Ikorodu, four policemen, a soldier and one civilian were reportedly killed. Besides, two persons were killed in attacks by suspected cult members on Otodo Gbame community in Lekki.
The militants reportedly ambushed the policemen attached to Owutu Division on their way back from a field operation.
It was learnt that the security operatives had gone to rescue four civilians kidnapped by the gunmen and were being forced into the creeks.
After rescuing the victims, the team was said to have boarded their Hilux patrol van and headed back to the station. But around Woodland Estate, the militants opened fire on the operatives from their hideout.
Another account stated that the security agents got a distress call that the militants had entered the community and killed a police informant, whom they accused of providing information that led to the death of one of their kingpins.
Upon receiving the information, operatives from Owotu Division and some soldiers in the area moved into Ishawo. The militants, who appeared to have laid ambush for them, attacked them.
They allegedly set ablaze the patrol van, injuring the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and policeman.
The gunmen, it was learnt, killed two civilians and shot dead the two soldiers, including a Captain identified simply as Mohammed, who was said to have alighted from an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).
The APC, it was gathered, was riddled with bullets fired by the gunmen who fled into the creeks.
Police Commissioner Fatai Owoseni, Commander Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Commander Tunji Disu and some senior Army officers visited the scene and assisted in taking the injured to the hospital.
A security source said the militants may have tricked their victims, given that a distress call was received by the police that militants had entered the community.
According to the source, going by the way the agents were killed, “there’s a possibility that the criminals raised a false alarm and prepared themselves to kill those who would be sent”.
The source said: “This looks more like a deception plan. There’s no way militants would ambush security operatives and kill that large number. I want to believe that they had planned the movement.
“They could be the ones who even made the false distress call and gave descriptions that would land the operatives exactly where they wanted them. The militants knew the agents didn’t have air cover; so, they deceived and ambushed them. It’s a sad incident.”
The Chairman of Operation AWATSE and Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, said security agencies were reviewing the incident.
Rear Admiral Bobai, who confirmed that there were casualties, directed our reporter to contact the police for details and assured that the perpetrators would be fished out and dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.
According to him, dislodged militants were returning to the area following the resumption of petrol pumping in the 72-kilometer track by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).
In a statement issued yesterday evening, Owoseni said the incident occurred around 1am. He vowed to hunt down the culprits.
The police commissioner said: “At about 1am on Sunday, the police received distress call that a group of militants/kidnappers had entered Owutu-Isawo in Ikorodu through the thick swampy forest surrounding the area.
“They were reported to have kidnapped some residents. In response, the police and the Army immediately mobilised personnel to the area, where the kidnapped victims were rescued.
“Sadly, however, five of the gallant, brave and patriotic officers lost their lives during the rescue operation. One of them is a Nigerian Army Captain while the remaining four are policemen. One of the residents in the area also died.
“We pray that God Almighty reward their loyalty to the nation with paradise and grant their souls peaceful rest. We also pray that God gives their respective families the courage to bear the loss.
“The command would like to assure the public that with synergy from sister security agencies, the criminal elements involved in this dastardly act shall be apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law. We will continue to rely on the good people of Lagos State for useful information and partnership.”
In the attack on Otodo Gbame, Avonda Elijah, 50, and 28-year-old Hungbo Daniel were shot by hoodlums who laid a siege to the community.
The community had been embroiled in a land tussle with its neighbouring Ikate community and the state government.
Officials of the Lagos Task Force, the police and other military personnel yesterday besieged the community around 12am, burning and destroying houses, forcing many residents to flee their homes.
The community was on fire when Task Force spokesman Taofeek Adebayo declined to comment on the operation, saying “it was a state operation”.
According to him, only the Information and Strategy Commissioner Steve Ayorinde, could speak on the matter.
A resident who simply identified himself as Jonathan, said: “Hoodlums just came into the community and started shooting for about 30 minutes and left. They came around 9:30pm and the first shooting killed the man. He was at the water-front where they sell sand. We don’t just know what the fight is about.
“The police came today and started burning people’s houses, chasing them out of the community. There was no notification of the invasion. Even right now, we are still at the court. We were at court last Thursday but they didn’t appear. So, the judge postponed it till next Thursday.”
Another resident, who gave his name as Felix, said: “They came here this morning and started destroying our houses. They levelled our buildings with caterpillar. I was sleeping in my compound when they started breaking our neighbour’s houses. I became afraid when I saw that they were breaking into compounds too. I had to run off with my family. I have no place to go.”