Gunmen Raid Police station, Steal Arms, Attack Banks
*We repelled them – Police
By Albert Akpor and Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
For some residents, Edo State, at the weekend, became a theatre of war. Some gunmen struck at a police station. There were conflicting accounts on the gunmen’s encounter with the police. While one account had it that the policemen, unable to withstand the gunmen’s firepower, took to their heels, the police said they repelled the attack.
The gunmen were said to have entered the armoury, took arms and attacked two generation banks. However, the robbery bid was reportedly foiled by members of a vigilance group who mobilised to stop the gunmen.
Scene of terror was Igarra in Akoko EdoLocal Government Area of Edo State. The incident happened on Friday night.
An account claimed the policemen at the station fled on sighting the gunmen numbering over ten with AK 47 rifles and dynamites, making it possible for the gunmen to gain entry into their armory and allegedly went away with three guns.
The gunmen,after attacking the police station, according to the account, stormed the two generation banks but met resistance from members of the vigilance group and youths in the area who mobilized to stop them from robbing the banks.
One of the gunmen was said to have sustained gun shot wounds from the securitymen attached to the bank.
Two members ofthe vigilance group, identified as Kehinde Julius and Eshovo Ukonga,also reportedly sustained gunshot wounds during the battle with the gunmen.
An eye witness narrated: “The gunmen came, threw dynamites at the police station and took guns from the armoury. Some of themproceeded to the banks while others stood along the road and wereshooting sporadically, but they could not gain access into the bankand one of them was shot.
“The otherssnatched a jeep with which they escaped and later dropped off thedriver along the way. But the one with gunshot wounds and another member of the gang escaped into the cave in the Igarra hills. Their blood stains were used to trail them into the cave and, in the process, they shot two of our boys (vigilance group). But they are still believed to be hiding in the cave while others have escaped”.
Another account said the armed gang, on arriving the area, divided themselves into two groups. While one group allegedly invaded the police station, the other went to one of the banks frantically trying to gain access into the banking hall. But a combined team of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) from Ibilo and Auchi rose to the challenge and engaged the gunmen in a shoot out. While the fierce exchange of fire was on, the gunmen were said to have been forced to abandon their plan to rob the banks and took to their heels.
Police sources said the operation may not be unconnected with the movement of huge sums of money from Benin and Auchi branch of one of the banks into the Igarra branch on Friday evening, adding that some staff of the bank must have knowledge of the robbery.
Edo State police commissioner, Olayinka Balogun, confirmed the gunmen attack but said the attackers did not gain entry into the armoury. “Yes they invaded the police station but they met resistance. Their plan was to attack the two banks located opposite each other, but they were also resisted there.
“We recovered three AK 47 rifles, a locally made explosive and two vehicles; aToyota Sienna and Camry. We suspect that two of them are hiding inthe cave. We saw their blood stained clothes, we are sure they arestill hiding in the cave. We are firing teargas into the cave tosmoke them out”, he said.