By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The police in Bayelsa yesterday disclosed that men of the state command had aborted an attempt by suspected hoodlums to forcibly seize mostly foreigners living at the Expatriates Quarters, reportedly owned by the state government, at Onopa area of the state.
The area, occupied mostly by expatriate oil workers in the state, was reportedly targeted by the suspected criminals because of the high net worth of the foreign residents which would have yielded large ransoms if the kidnap attempt was not successfully repelled by the security operatives.
Though the police did not indicate the nationality of the expatriates and the particular area that was attacked, THISDAY checks revealed that those who were targeted were mostly Chinese who were being accommodated at the Castle Hotel, located near the state Government House.
It was gathered that the Castle, an edifice, which was formerly designed to accommodate government guests by the former administration, was converted into a hotel by Governor Seriake Dickson’s government as part of its plans to promote tourism in the state.
The kidnappers reportedly gained access to the building through the River Nun channel at the back of the Government House, but it was learnt that one of the expatriates skilled in martial arts, disarmed a member of the gang.
A source noted that the expatriate hid in a corner of the building to hit one of the gunmen who cried out in pains and forced other members of the gang to start sporadic gunshots.
It added that gunshots attracted police operatives who raced to the scene and engaged the kidnappers in a gun battle, before they fled the scene without their weapons.
Members of the criminal gang who reportedly stormed the area in several speedboats, got to the quarters at about 11.50 in the night, before successfully scaling the fence leading to the area.
The police did not indicate whether there were any injuries, but a statement by Mr. Asinim Butswat, a Deputy Superintendent of police, indicated that the hoodlums retreated during an exchange of gunfire with the security operatives on guard duty.
Butswat, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, noted that men of the command were currently on the trail of the hoodlums, with a view to apprehending them.
Last month, some unknown gunmen killed two soldiers in the state who were providing security for the construction firm, Setraco Nigeria, and abducted an expatriate after a shootout ensued.
The soldiers who lost their lives during the operation were providing security cover for the expatriates who were working on a road construction site. One of the foreigners, Ramzi Bau Hadir, aged 53 years, was taken away.
Regarding the latest incident, the police Spokesman said: “On the June 11, 2016, at about 2350hrs, unknown gunmen attacked the Expatriates Quarters, at Onopa, opened fire on the security personnel on guard, in an attempt to abduct the expatriates.
“The security operatives fired back and the gunmen withdrew, abandoning their assault rifle. They escaped through the waterways in a speedboat. Manhunt for the gunmen have been intensified, investigation is ongoing.’’