Security operatives working for the safety of defenceless Nigerians again came under severe attack, as armed militiamen in Nasarawa State killed 23 mobile policemen and operatives of the State Security Service, SSS, working in the state.
The deadly militia group popularly known as Ombatse killed the security agents in a well plotted ambush, 10 kilometres from Lafia, the state capital.
Aside those killed, nine others were critically injured by the militia and eight out of 11 operational vehicles set ablaze by the militia in the village.
Afraid that the security forces may stage reprisal attacks on communities harbouring the criminals, Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Al-Makura rushed to the Presidential Villa to seek the Vice President’s intervention.
The state police commissioner, Abayomi Akeremale, who spoke with newsmen on the attack, said the large contingent was on a mission to raid the shrine.
He said: “We decided at the State Security Council meeting, because of the frequent attacks on churches and mosques by this particular group, who are forcing people to swear an oath at the shrine, that we carry out an operation and arrest the perpetrators for prosecution, less it turns into a religious crisis.
“The people; some called them Ombatse, but they call themselves cultural people; ambushed our men and opened fire”, Mr. Akeremale said.
“The policemen were on operation to raid the place and make arrests, particularly of the chief priest, and other leaders, who have been torturing worshipers in churches and mosques to force them to swear an oath of allegiance to Ombatse.
He said the worshipers had tortured and compelled an inspector of police, to swear allegiance to Ombatse, but added that the officer has been freed, and returned to his duty post.
“We are still after the persons “administering the oath forcefully on people. We will make sure we bring the perpetrators to book.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Michael Ada admitted that 23 policemen and men of the SSS were killed.
He said eight patrol vehicles were also burnt.
Ada said:”The casualty we confirmed is 23. They killed and burned 23 policemen and SSS. They also burnt eight patrol vehicles. But our rescue team is still in the bush, and has not return to give update.”
On his part, Governor Almakura confirmed that over 20 policemen and security operatives were killed.
Security around the Benue-Nasarawa axis has continued to deteriorate. Benue and Nasarawa State residents are also under severe attacks from Fulani herdsmen in the last eight weeks, leaving hundreds dead.