Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
There was confusion in Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State on Monday night when a gang of heavily armed Niger Delta militants attacked a police checkpoint and a nearby police station in Kolo area of the council.
But while there were conflicting versions of how the incident occurred, the police authorities in the state said yesterday that the suspects were resisting arrest when they were confronted by the security operatives, which resulted in the clash.
During the incident which happened at about 8.30p.m., a police sergeant was killed, while a corporal and many civilians, who are currently receiving treatment in one of the hospitals in the area, were seriously injured.
Also, several arms belonging to the policemen were said to have been carted away by the hoodlums with the police assuring that they are already on the trail of the militants.
Many youths from Kolo community, afraid of being implicated in the matter, have since deserted the area, it was learnt yesterday.
A source said the armed attackers, four in all, were stopped during a stop and search operation at the checkpoint by the policemen who discovered stolen petroleum products in the vehicle.
An argument reportedly ensued while the policemen were questioning members of the gang, before one of them alighted and opened fire on the policemen.
However, another source from the area said the operatives who man the checkpoint were notorious for collecting bribes from the known oil thieves who ply the road, adding that the disagreement that led to the shooting was as a result of negotiation on how much the suspects should pay.
While the Sergeant died instantly, the corporal was lucky as he was only attacked with cutlasses. The other two policemen were reportedly chased into the nearby police station by the gang before retreating.
Two civilians who tried to rescue the policemen when the militants mobilised against them and some other residents in the crowd during the attack also sustained severe injuries.
Spokesperson of the state police command, Mr. Asinim Butswat, who confirmed the incident, accused members of the community of conniving with the militants to mob the policemen who were on official duty.
â€œThe Bayelsa State Police Command wishes to use this medium to inform the general public that on t September 4, 2017 at about 2030hrs, policemen on vehicular patrol along Kolo 2 in Ogbia Local Government area were attacked by unknown gunmen.
â€œBased on a tip-off, the policemen intercepted a vehicle conveying suspected militants. Two of the suspects were arrested and handcuffed but resisted any attempt by policemen to search their vehicleâ€, Butswat said in a statement in Yenagoa.
He added: â€œIn the ensuing uproar, members of the community gathered around the vehicle and rescued the arrested suspects and the policemen were attacked.
â€œThe command regrettably lost a police sergeant and arms. A police corporal and a civilian were injured and are responding to treatment in the hospital,â€ the police authorities said.
The police advised members of the public to â€œassist the police in fighting crime rather than compound police investigations as the crowd was partly responsible for the attack on the policemen.â€
The latest attack on security operatives in the state happened barely a week after another gang of suspected militants shot dead some soldiers and a civilian employee of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Ekeremor Council of Bayelsa.