The soldiers who killed police officers in Taraba state mistook the officers for kidnappers, it has been revealed.
According to a report by Punch Metro, the Nigerian Army says the three policemen and a civilian who were shot dead by unidentified soldiers along the Ibi-Jalingo Road, Taraba State, were mistaken for kidnappers.
The incident happened on Tuesday.
The Police operatives, led by ASP Felix Adolije of the Intelligence Response Team, reportedly came under attack while taking a kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu, to the Command headquarters in Jalingo.
The Force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, disclosed in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday that one Police Inspector, two Sergeants and a civilian died as a result of gunshot injuries sustained in the attack.
However, in response to the incident, Army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said the shooting was done in error because the soldiers mistook the victims for kidnappers while responding to a distress call.
The statement signed by Musa reads, “On August 6, troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army 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.
“On the 6th of August 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distress call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten (10) and driving in a white bus with Reg No 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 hot 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 sporadically thus prompting them to return fire.
“In the resultant fire fight, four (4) suspects were shot and died on the spot while four (4) others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and 2 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 Nigeria Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment.
“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 Nigeria Police Force Headquarters thus lending credence to the distress call from members of the community that the suspects who turned out to be Policemen on a covert mission were rather suspected kidnappers.
“This incident is indeed quite unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison as the Nigerian Police Force are partners in the fight against crimes such as kidnapping amongst myriads of other internal security threats confronting our nation of which the Nigerian Police is the lead Agency.
“In order to avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigerian Police have agreed to constitute a Joint Investigation 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 but very avoidable unfortunate incident.”