40 gunmen attack Abuja police detention facility, free many Boko Haram members
Forty gunmen suspected to be terrorists in the early hours of Monday stormed the office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja, where Boko Haram suspects were being held.
Two policemen and one of the gunmen were killed in the incident, the first of its kind in the Federal Capital Territory which had in the past recorded three bomb blasts.
The blasts were on October 1, 2010; June 16, 2011; and August 26, 2011.
At least 30 detainees, including some Boko Haram members, were said to have escaped during the Monday attack on the detention facility.
But the police denied that terror suspects were among the escapees. They also said that 25 of the 30 detainees had so far been rearrested.
The attack occurred barely 24 hours after twin car bomb blasts at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State.
The army authorities had on Friday declared 19 Boko Haram leaders wanted and offered rewards of between N50m and N10m for information that could lead to their capture.
A source in the police told one of our correspondents that the surprise attack on the detention facility, located around Abattoir, Garki in Abuja was carried out around 2am.
It lasted for some minutes during which heavy weapons were allegedly used by the gunmen.
The senior police officer put the number of the attackers at about 40. “The attackers numbering about 40 came from the bush and attempted to overrun the facility but the valiant policemen on duty repelled them.” the source said.
According to him, one of the attackers was killed and two others arrested.
A mobile police officer, whose name could not be immediately ascertained and a police Inspector, Fakat Zaremi, were killed during the exchange of gunfire.
Emmanuel Domsing, a lawyer, said he was informed early in the morning that his brother, Zaremi, was killed by the gunmen.
He said, “I was called that my elder brother was killed during the attack, but information is scanty on what actually transpired; the family is waiting for a formal report from the police.”
Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, visited the facility around 1pm on Monday. He was briefed by the SARS Commander and the Federal Capital Territory Commissioner of Police, Ade Shinaba.
Abubakar, then ordered a high-powered panel headed by a Senior Police Officer to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Some senior military officers were also said to have paid visits to the facility to commiserate with the police on the attack.
When one of our correspondents visited the detention facility, security around the complex was tight as armed policemen turned back all visitors.
A photojournalist with Daily Independent, Jide Oyekunle, was arrested and detained by the police for attempting to take pictures of the SARS office after the invasion by the gunmen.
Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, in a statement said that about 30 suspects had broken out of their cells and attempted to escape but that 25 of them were rearrested through “tactical and coordinated efforts.”
He said, “In the early hours of today, November 26, 2012, gunmen in large number attacked the premises of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Federal Capital Territory Police Command. Policemen on duty responded swiftly and engaged the gunmen in a gunfire that lasted for some minutes, at the end of which the gunmen were successfully repelled.
“However, in the confusion that ensued, about 30 suspects in the detention facility of SARS broke out of the cells and attempted to escape. Tactical and coordinated efforts to re-arrest the fleeing suspects yielded instant result. So far, 25 of the suspects have been rearrested, while five suspects originally held in relation to robbery are currently at large.
“Two policemen died during the operation while two of the attackers have been arrested. It needs to be emphasised here that no suspect held for terror- related charges, escaped from SARS detention facilities. No explosives or IED-related materials were used in the botched attack.
“Meanwhile, the IG has personally visited the scene of the incident to assess the situation and has ordered water-tight security around all government and Police-related facilities nationwide.”
The police appealed for calm and assured the public of their preparedness to protect lives and properties.
After the attack, security, which had been relaxed in Abuja following a reduction in bombings was hurriedly beefed up.
At the Villa Junction, near the Federal Secretariat, about 10 soldiers were seen by our correspondent checking vehicles plying the area.
Also, many of the gates which were previously manned by non-uniformed security personnel, were guarded by policemen.
Policemen guarding the force headquarters were also on the alert as they thoroughly searched visitors.
Security was also beefed up at the airport road, where soldiers searched vehicles.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, last Thursday had said that inter-agency collaboration helped security agencies to foil a terror attack in the country recently.
The COAS, who visited the Force Headquarters in Abuja, said,”Within the last one week, we have recovered nothing less than 30 assorted weapons; we have recovered money hidden in the engine compartment of vehicles by these terrorists.
“We have recovered both vehicles prepared for bombing and attacks. So I want to tell you that the military and police are very professional.”