- Troops, helicopter gunship go after gunmen
Two soldiers were killed and two others injured by suspected members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) during a Sunday night attack on security facilities and correctional centre in Owerri, Imo State capital, security sources told Dateline Nigeria.
The attackers also damaged four Hilux vehicles and an armoured personnel carrier (APC) the sources said.
The gunmen, earlier freed inmates from the correctional centre and attacked the building housing the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID).
Reports said over 1500 inmates escaped from the detention facility after it was breached by the assailants. But the officials of the Nigerian Correctional service are yet to speak about the attack.
Residents said the suspected IPOB members operated for over two hours before leaving the scene in a convoy of vehicles, comprising buses and cars.
But military sources disclosed that as the gunmen were retreating through a different route from the one they came from, they raided military checkpoints along the way and killed two soldiers.
“The soldiers were on duty at the checkpoints along Onitsha Road when the gunmen opened fire on them.
“They killed two soldiers and burnt the remains of one the soldiers. They also injured two other soldiers.
“In the same attack on the checkpoints, they destroyed four Hilux vehicles belonging to the military,” the source disclosed.
Another source also told Dateline Nigeria that during the attack on the corrections facility, an APC that was deployed to provide security around the state Government House and some military facilities, was dispatched to observe what was happening and the attackers damaged one of its tyres and its exhaust.
The source said the vehicle was seriously bruised.
“They came with more than personal rifles to be able to cause such damage to the APC. I believe they used an RPG to inflict that damage,” the source added.
But Dateline Nigeria gathered that troops and a helicopter gunship are giving the attackers a hot chase after they withdrew to their bush hideout.
What we passed through during the attack – residents
Residents of Owerri have relived the fear that rattled them as security facilities came under night attack.
Some of them said they didn’t know when they started running in a bid to escape being felled by bullets.
A trader of Hausa quarters (popularly known as Ama Hausa) in Owerri, said the shootings started just some minutes past 1am, adding that many people were awake at the time in the area that has many suya, noodles and tea shops.
The trader who does not want to be named, said “the sudden gunshots, coming just two days after some people were shot and killed in Orlu really shocked us. We thought it was an attack on us.”
He said some of the traders and their customers, in an attempt to run, stumbled on drainages and fell, injuring themselves in the process.
“After some level of sanity was restored, we started seeing people running in our direction and that sparked something like a stampede in which more people sustained injuries.
“When the people came close, we discovered that they are inmates who escaped from the Owerri prison, so we people stopped running. Some of the inmates greeted us and passed because they are familiar faces,” he said.
After the attack on the police, the gunmen drove their vehicles through the Ama Hausa and left without attacking anybody there, the residents explained.
A security personnel who does not want to be identified recalled that he was returning to his duty post around 2am, when he saw people running. “They were prisoners. They stopped me and begged that I should pick them on my bike. I asked them how they got out and they told me that the prison was attacked and they were set free.
“I sped off and left them, only to meet another group that is almost 200 strong. That’s when I said to myself, ‘It is true the prison has been attacked’,” he said.
Later at his place of duty, the security personnel together with his colleagues, monitored as the attackers where withdrawing.
“We counted almost 10 vehicles taking them towards Onitsha Road,” he said.
When Dateline Nigeria contacted the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Brig General Mohammed M. Yerima, he said he was not aware of any attacks in Owerri.
“I am just hearing it from you. I cannot say anything until I have a report. I don’t have a report on it yet,” he said.
Also, the spokesperson of the 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Owerri, Lieutenant Zubairu, said he had traveled out of the state and was “not aware” of the attack.