Bandits roaming communities and targeting security personnel have again struck, killing a high-ranking divisional police officer (DPO) and four other officers in Nigeria’s North Central Niger State.
At least 74 soldiers and police officers have been killed since April last year by bandits who have taken over many communities in Niger, a state considered the largest in Nigeria with a vast landmass of 76,363 km². The vastness of the state has made it extremely difficult for the overstretched security personnel to effectively curtail criminal activities. In several instances, drones and fighter jets have been deployed to battle the insurgents.
There have been incidents of many civilian casualties in air strikes in the state.
Air strikes carried out on January 23 by the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) killed at least 21 members of a civilian defence group who were responding to an attack by bandits in the state.
At least 33 civilians were also allegedly killed in similar strikes in April 2022.
The many civilian casualties in air strikes have led to the restrained and cautious deployment of military air components, especially in Niger where security reports say that bandits have been using civilians as human shields.
The bandit attack on Saturday targeted police officers in the Munya and Gurara local government areas.
”The victims were killed in a shoot-out with bandits who attempted to invade communities in Munya and Gurara,” said Mr Wasiu Abiodun, the police public relations officer in the state.
He said the officers were able to repel an attack on a market in Munya and also engaged the bandits during an attack on communities in Gurara.
“Regrettably, DPO Paiko SP Mukhtar Sabiu and four other police personnel from both divisions lost their lives during the gun duel,” he said in a statement released on Sunday.
Police, vigilantes join hands
Police tactical teams and vigilante members mobilised to the market where the hoodlums were routed and successfully repelled and although the situation caused some panic, normalcy was restored.
“Combined teams of police from Gawu-Babangida Division and Paiko Division, military and vigilante members were drafted to the scene, engaged the bandits in a gun duel and repelled [them] with scores of them being neutralised while others escaped with bullet injuries,” the police spokesman stated.
According to the police spokesman, the commissioner of police in the state, Mr Ogundele Ayodeji, led a team to the location to recover the bodies of the slain officers.