The Nigerian Army on Thursday said that its troops attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, shot dead three policemen and one civilian in error after they were mistaken for kidnappers.
The army noted that the policemen later found to be on covert operation refused to stop at a military checkpoint and were trailed and shot dead by troops who had earlier received a distress call.
The Punch reported that the acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, stated these in a release on Wednesday night, while reacting to an earlier release by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, who said the policemen, including an Inspector, were shot dead by the soldiers.
The army spokesman said the “flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops.”
Musa said, “The attention of the Army Headquarters was drawn to a release by DCP Frank Mba, the Force PRO, on the unfortunate incident that occurred on August 6 in which troops of 93 Battalion, Takum, pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected Kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the team.
“The said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim, exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
The suspected kidnappers numbering about 10 and driving in a white bus with Registration Number, LAGOS MUS 564 EU, refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive checkpoints.
“The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops. It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers, who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops, thus prompting them to return fire.
In the resultant firefight, four suspects were shot and died on the spot while four others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and two others reportedly missing.
“It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment.”
The army spokesman added that a Joint lnvestigation Panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigations Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, had been set up on the incident.
He said, “However, following inquiries from a Police Station officer who was asked by the commander of the army troops whether he was aware of any Nigerian Police team being dispatched to operate in the LGA, the Divisional Police Officer of Ibi Police Division responded that he was not informed about any operation by the police.
“This incident is indeed quite unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison. The Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters have agreed to constitute a Joint lnvestigation Panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to jointly investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident.
“Therefore, until the Joint Investigation Panel concludes and submits its report, it will be premature to officially conclude and speak on the real circumstances that caused this unfortunate incident.”