The Nigerian army on Wednesday said its men erroneously killed three police officers, believing they were were kidnappers.
The army explained this in a statement by its spokesman, Sagir Musa, saying the refusal of the policemen, whom they thought were kidnappers, to stop at the checkpoints, made the soldiers to react the way they did.
The Nigeria Police had on Wednesday accused the army of killing three of its personnel and freed a kidnap suspect when soldiers opened fire on the police officers along Ibi-Jalingo road in Taraba state.
The army statement read, “The attention of the army headquarters has been drawn to the press release by DCP Frank Mba, Police Public Relations Officer, on the unfortunate incident that occurred on the 6th of August 2019 in which troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army, Takum pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the Team.”
“On the 6th of August 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten (10) and driving in a white bus with Reg No LAGOS MUS 564 EU refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive check points. The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops. It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically thus prompting them to return fire.
“In the resultant fire fight, four (4) suspects were shot and died on the spot while four (4) others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and 2 others reportedly missing. It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed Policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment.”
The statement added that the commander of the troops asked at the police station in the area whether they were aware of any police team being dispatched to operate, but the answer from the divisional police officer was negative.
The incident is unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison, the army spokesman said.
“In order to avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigerian Police have agreed to constitute a Joint lnvestigation Panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to jointly investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident. Therefore, until the Joint Investigation Panel concludes and submits its report, it will be premature to officially conclude and speak on the real circumstances that caused this unfortunate but very avoidable unfortunate incident.”