An army Captain, identified as Muhammed, four policemen, and a civilian lost their lives on Sunday after suspected militants attacked Ishawo, in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State.
PUNCH Metro learnt that panic-stricken residents fled their homes in the wake of the killings.
Our correspondent learnt that a combined team of the police and military had already been deployed in the area in a bid to apprehend the perpetrators of the crime.
It was gathered that the militants had first attacked a funeral in Makun-Omi, Ogun State, on Saturday, disrupting the burial of a monarch.
A police source told our correspondent that the Captain and the policemen had responded to a distress call after the militants kidnapped some residents on Woodland Estate, close to the Ishawo creeks.
He explained that the operatives, after rescuing the victims, were leaving the area when they were ambushed by the militants.
He said, “The incident happened on Sunday. The security agents were called and they were able to rescue the victims. As they were leaving the place, the militants surfaced from a hideout and shot them dead.
“After that, the gunmen burnt their patrol vehicle. The policemen were from the anti-kidnapping unit of the Lagos State Police Command.”
A resident, who did not want to be identified, explained that the militants had attacked the community in reprisal for the killing of one of their members in Opeoluwa community.
She explained that the militants killed and set ablaze a resident, said to be an informant of the police.
She said the police were called after the gunmen kidnapped some other residents.
“The militants came in through the waterways. They headed straight for the home of the man, brought him out and shot him dead. They also burnt his corpse.
“The policemen and the soldiers went to rescue the villagers. The militants engaged them in a gun battle. They overpowered and killed five of the operatives. The OP MESA later deployed a troop in the scene. The militants fled when they saw they could not overpower the troop,” she added.
The resident explained that people had fled their homes, adding that apart from the informant, some other civilians were killed by the militants.
“A lot of people were killed. I don’t have the number. It was terrible. People are scared. While I was going to church this morning, I saw a lot of people running out with their loads,” she said.
Another resident, who also insisted the killings were a reprisal, said the militants were plotting to resume their oil bunkering activities.
He said, “Those people are heartless and wicked. They are eager to start the bunkering business again.”
The Zone 2 Police Public Relations Officer, SP Dolapo Badmos, confirmed the incident, adding that the militants launched two attacks.
She said, “The militants had attacked Makun-Omi community in Ogun State. The community was observing a funeral for their late king, Oba Odugbefun Osoba. The area was thrown into panic when some hoodlums, suspected to be militants, invaded the community. The mobile police team deployed in the area put up a resistance with the support of hunters and a local vigilance team. One of the suspected militants, identified as Kehinde Toikumo, was arrested.
“It was later that they regrouped and attacked the Lagos community through the waterways. The AIG, Adamu Ibrahim, has put a well coordinated intelligence team in the area and activated the anti-kidnapping section of the zone to work hand in hand with Lagos and Ogun states to forestall a recurrence and ensure the arrest of the suspects.”
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said a total of six people were killed.
He said, “At about 1am on Sunday, the police received a distress call that a group of militants had entered Owutu-Isawo in Ikorodu through the thick swampy forest surrounding the area. They were reported to have kidnapped some residents.
“In response, the police and the army immediately mobilised personnel to the area, where the kidnapped victims were rescued.
“Sadly, five of the gallant, brave and patriotic officers lost their lives during the rescue operation. One of them was a Nigerian Army Captain, while the remaining four were policemen. One of the residents in the area also died.”
Owoseni said the police would work with other security agencies to ensure the suspects were apprehended and made to face the law.
The Lagos State Government, in a statement on Sunday, commiserated with the families of the deceased officers.
The statement, issued by the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said the incident was unfortunate, adding that it would strengthen the government’s resolve to root crime out of the state.
The government stressed that the incident had further reinforced its resolve to go after criminals and their collaborators, who were using coastal areas and illegal waterfront settlements as havens or escape routes to perpetrate evil.
“The governor, however, assures the police and the general public of his support and commitment to rid the state of every form of militancy, kidnapping, and illegal waterfront shanties that harbour criminals,” Ayorinde said.
The Acting Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Olaolu Daudu, confirmed the incident.
He said, “Four policemen lost their lives, while the army officer, who led the operation, sustained gunshot injuries and died on the way to a hospital. Similarly, four of the nine rescued kidnapped victims, including an infant of about two years old, sustained injuries during the encounter. They were all taken to the hospital and are responding to treatment.”