At least ten police officers are feared killed and several others missing following a Sunday night ambush on a police team in Benue State, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt from locals and officials who have been providing updates.
The attack began around 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening when gunmen opened fire on two police officers who were riding on a motorcycle between Anyibe and Ayilamo, two communities in Logo Local Government Area where hundreds have been killed in suspected herdsmen attacks since January 1.
One of the police officers died on the spot, while the other reportedly escaped.
Some officers were dispatched to retrieve the body of the slain officer, but they, too, came under attack on their way back from the mortuary where they deposited the remains of their colleague.
The gun battle that followed reportedly left nine officers killed and several others still missing. The bodies of the nine officers were discovered on Monday morning, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from residents and local government officials.
About 30 officers were said to have been involved in the incident. Some officers are said to have returned to their station, but it was not immediately clear how many.
At least two police trucks were also burnt by the attackers, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
“We have confirmed this morning that 10 policemen were killed including the first one that was killed on a motorcycle,” said Paul Pevikyaa, information officer for Logo Local Government Area. “Only a few places are safe now.”
Two members of a local vigilante group working closely with the police also told PREMIUM TIMES that nine or 10 officers have been confirmed killed.
The situation was still fluid as at the time of filing this report, with locals saying there is little hope the missing officers would be found alive.
Benue police commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, and the command spokesperson, Moses Yamu, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for updates about the incident.
But Daily Post quoted Mr Yamu as confirming the attack on Monday afternoon, saying the police have only been able to confirm four casualties.
Two members of the police special forces in Benue told PREMIUM TIMES they have been asked to prepare for deployment to Logo LGA following the killings. They were pulled out in February following the commencement of ‘Exercise Ayem Akpatuma’ by the army in the state.
The Nigerian Army abruptly ended the exercise last month, although it continues to claim that a two-month extension was in force.