31 July 2012

Nigeria: Four Killed in First Boko Haram Attack On Sokoto

Photo: Aliyu Adekunle/Vanguard
Block of building, which houses AIG's office, shattered by the suicide bomber

Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate and the home of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Monday got its first taste of terror attacks as Boko Haram insurgents set of twin bomb blasts in the town and engaged policemen in a gun duel.

The attacks came on a day gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists, attacked the family home of Vice-President Namadi Sambo in Zaria, Kaduna State and four suspected terrorists were killed in Kano, the Kano State capital, after a gun duel with the police.

Four persons were confirmed dead and eight policemen injured in the suicidal bomb blasts that rocked the zonal police headquarters of Zone 10, Marna area of Sokoto metropolis and Unguwar Rogo police station.

The blasts led to the death of two suspected suicide bombers, a police corporal and a woman.

Since the wave of terror attacks gripped some Northern states in the last two years, Sokoto has enjoyed relative peace despite a threat last year by Boko Haram to attack the state.

The nearest the state had come to witnessing terror attack was in March when a phalanx of soldiers invaded the town to rescue two foreigners, a Briton, Chris McManus, and an Italian, Franco Lamolinara, kidnapped in May 2011 in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, and were held hostage in Sokoto.

The rescue bid, carried out by Nigerian and British forces, however went awry as the hostages were killed before their rescuers could get to them.

Monday's bombings triggered pandemonium in the Sokoto metropolis, as residents scampered to safety to avert attacks by the insurgents or getting caught in any crossfire between the terrorists and the police.

THISDAY learnt that the attack occurred simultaneously at the zonal police headquarters and station around 11.30 am when a suspected suicide bomber forced his way into the zonal command headquarters and rammed his car into the premises after he was prevented by the policemen at the gate from gaining entry.

The bomb-laden car exploded immediately on impact and destroyed the administrative building housing the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Alhaji Mukhtari Ibrahim, heading the zonal command.

The blast also affected the adjacent building to the AIG's office, while the vehicle of the AIG, who was in the office when the incident occurred, was also damaged. Also destroyed were houses close to the zonal police headquarters.

Although the police said details of the attack on the Unguwar Rogo police station were sketchy, an eyewitness told THISDAY that the suicide bomber detonated the bomb-laden car near the police station when he could not access the station located in a heavily fortified neighbourhood.

Confirming both incidents to reporters, Ibrahim said a suspected suicide bomber drove a Honda Civic car and forced his way into the premises, when he was prevented from gaining entry at the gate.

He said a police corporal, one Samaila, died on the spot along with the suicide bomber, while eight policemen and a passerby were injured.

He appealed to the public to cooperate with the police in order to avert a recurrence.

"We want the public to cooperate with us to prevent such threats and I have already directed other commands to be on alert to ensure that everywhere is guarded appropriately," Ibrahim said.

He added that the command had commenced investigation into the matter.

However, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kudu Nma, told reporters that the impact of the bomb on the building at the Unguwar Rogo police station was minimal, as the suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a shop close to the station and died on the spot.

"As you are aware, the impact of the blast at the Unguwan Rogo police station was minimal, as the blast only damaged the shop close to it," Nma added.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Sani Salisu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, also informed journalists that a hairdresser, who owned a shop close to the police station, was also killed in the blast.

Meanwhile, the roads leading to the zonal police headquarters and Unguwar Rogo station have been barricaded and movement restricted in the areas.

Later in the day as Muslims were getting set to break their fast, Boko Haram gunmen attacked Arkilla police station, Sokoto.

THISDAY gathered that there was exchange of gunshots at about 6.30 pm between the police and the gunmen who invaded the area on motorcycles. It was learnt that the exchange of fire lasted for almost one hour.

Salisu confirmed the incident, saying that no casualty was recorded in the gun battle with the assailants.

Senate President David Mark condemned the serial suicide bomb attacks on the police stations in Sokoto, describing the attacks as an assault on the peaceful coexistence of the people of the state.

He expressed shock at the audacity of the attackers and urged security agencies to evolve a new approach to tackle the menace of terrorism.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publications, Mr. Kola Ologondiyan, Mark recalled that the security agencies had thwarted the activities of the suicide bombers in the past and they could do it again with renewed commitment.

In Zaria Monday, a cobbler was killed and two policemen guarding the residence of the vice-president were injured when unidentified gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents, attacked the building.

Eyewitnesses said the three gunmen came on a motorcycle at around 11 am and opened fire on the riot policemen guarding the house. The house is currently under construction after it was razed down during the April 2011 post-election violence.

It was learnt that one of the policemen was shot on the leg, while the other was shot on the hand.

However, the cobbler who was said to be polishing shoes for one of the policemen was hit by a stray bullet and died on the spot.

The injured policemen were said to have been rushed to the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Shika, for treatment.

The Kaduna State Police Command confirmed the incident, adding that the cobbler was killed by a stray bullet following the exchange of gunfire between the policemen and their attackers.

Acting Public Relations Officer of the Kaduna Command, Abubakar Balteh, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said the three gunmen were repelled by the policemen on duty.

According to him, "There was an attack, but the house was under construction. The policemen were guarding the house. A cobbler was killed by a stray bullet because of the exchange of fire between the three gunmen and the police. The cobbler died while one of the policemen was shot on the leg."

A team of security operatives comprising the police, State Security Service (SSS) and armed soldiers were said to have taken over the vicinity preventing both human and vehicular movements around the area. Security agents were said to have begun a manhunt for the culprits.

The presidency also confirmed the attack on the building located on Baba Ahmad Road in Tudun Wada, Zaria. Special Adviser to the Vice-President, Media and Publicity, Mallam Sani Umar, confirmed the incident.

Meanwhile, the police in Kano State have revealed that four suspected terrorists were killed Monday during a gun battle with policemen.

Two of the attackers were gunned down by the police while two, suspected to be suicide bombers out on a mission, died when the explosives strapped to their bodies went off.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, said one of the gunmen was burnt beyond recognition and there was no police or civilian casualty.

According to the police, items recovered at the scene of the incident were three motorcycles, one AK 47 rifle, an assault rifle and 50 rounds of ammunition.

In Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, an aged woman, said to be a widow, was killed by some gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect.

The woman, a cleaner at the Yobe State Police Force headquarters, was killed during an ambush on a vehicle conveying staff of the police headquarters to their office, it was learnt.

The state Police Commissioner, Patrick Egbuniwe, while confirming the incident, said the aged woman was shot alongside a little boy in the ambush.

"They were immediately rushed to the hospital but the old woman was certified dead, while the little boy was treated and discharged," he said.

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