The gunmen succeeded in freeing some of their members in detention. Sources said 15 people may have been killed, but the police confirmed only two, even as another source narrated how the attack was carried out, saying it was brutal. The police said they have re-arrested 25 of the 30 detainees set free by the gunmen.
The attackers, who invaded the SARS office located along the Nyanya-Karu Expressway in Abuja at exactly 2am, according to Daily Sun sources, killed a police Inspector and an anti-riot policeman.
They escaped with a good number of their members in a shoot-out that lasted for about two hours. In a statement issued yesterday, Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), confirmed the attack and the killing, but said only five suspects who were not terrorists, escaped. He said the gunmen were successfully repelled.
The source, who does not want his name mentioned, told Daily Sun that the suspected terrorists stormed the SARS premises located around a mountainous area from the bush and forced the gate open with bullets and made their way straight to the cells, located at the back side of the building where their members were detained and set them free.
The invasion also led to the escape of other robbery suspects, who used the opportunity created by the Boko Haram members to escape. Apart from being well armed and prepared for the operation, the gunmen were said to have been armed with very powerful security light with which they flashed directly into the eyes of the policemen on duty to completely blind them mometarily.
The powerful rays from the flashlight they were carrying, was said to have had a serious impediment on the policemen who struggled to get their actual position.
Those who escaped were re-arrested in the bush, several policemen on duty sustained injuries and have been rushed to the hospital. Mr Mba’s statement reads: “In the early hours of today, November 26, 2012, at about 2am, unknown gunmen in large number attacked the premises of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Federal Territory Police Command.
Policemen on duty responded swiftly and engaged the gunmen in a gun battle that lasted for some minutes, at the end of which the gunmen were successfully repelled.
“However, in the confusion that ensued, about 30 suspects in the detention facilities of SARS broke out of the cells and attempted to escape. Tactical and coordinated efforts to re-arrest the fleeing suspects yielded instant result. So far, twenty five (25) of the suspects have been re-arrested, while five (5) suspects originally being held in relation to robbery-related offences are currently at large. Two (2) policemen died during the operation while two (2) of the attackers have been arrested.
“It needs to be emphasized here that no suspect held for terror-related charges, escaped from SARS detention facilities. No explosive or IED-related materials were used in the botched attack. “Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP MD Abubakar, has personally visited the scene of the incident to assess the situation.
He has equally raised a high-powered investigative panel headed by a senior police officer to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incidence. “Similarly, the IGP has ordered water-tight security around all government and police-related facilities nation-wide. The Police High Command uses this medium to appeal to Nigerians for calm while reassuring them of the force’s preparedness to perform its constitutional and statutory responsibilities of providing adequate security for the state and the entire citizenry.
The force therefore, enjoins the public to continue to go about their lawful duty without fear or intimidation as adequate strategies have been put in place to guarantee the general security and safety of all Nigerians”, Mba said. Meanwhile, the police have beefed up security around SARS office, even as IGP Abubakar and the FCT Commissioner of Police, Aderenle Shinaba, visited the scene of the incident to assess the situation.
Reporters were barred from gaining entry into the premises while a photo journalist with the Daily Independent, Jide Oyekunle, who tried to capture the scene was beaten. His camera was seized. He was detained for hours by SARS officials, who took serious offence by the presence of journalists. One of the sources that would not want his name mentioned said there had been complaint over the location of the SARS office considering the security situation in the country because the office is considered vulnerable to attack.
The source said the authorities were making plans to relocate the office. Narrating the incident to Daily Sun, the source said, “even though we have been complaining about the location and that we may be attacked one day, we never expected this kind of brutal attack.
“The whole thing happened like magic and nobody had the premonition that this kind of thing will happen in Abuja because we were all doing our job when at exactly 2am, we heard a very loud gunshot and the shooting continued like that for about two hours non-stop. “At first we didn’t know where the gunshot was coming from so, we took cover only to discover that the firing was coming from the bush behind us, meaning the attackers came from the hills and may have stayed there for some days planning their attack.
“The attackers succeeded in gaining access into the premises and went straight to both the male and female cells, fired several shots and forced them open and freed their members because we have some of them in detention. It was when they succeeded in breaking into the very place where we detained the Boko Haram suspects that we now knew what they were up to.
“Our men tried because they did their best to defend the office as they too engaged the attackers in a gun battle. But it seems the attackers came prepared because apart from their shooting continuously for as long the operation lasted, they were armed with very powerful torchlight that shines like mercury light, they used that light to almost blind us because we could not see them, but they were seeing us.
“So When the firing got too much for us, we had to run into the bush and remained there for sometime and in the process, some people sustained injuries and lost their personal belongings and by the time the firing stopped, we found one Inspector and one anti-riot policeman, those ones that wear red beret dead. “We just thank God for everything because we were able to arrest some of the suspects who escaped and some armed robbery suspects who are in our custody also used the opportunity to escape”. The source said.