A combined team of security operatives yesterday conducted a search of hot spots and suspected hideouts of criminals in the nation's federal capital. The aim of the operation, LEADERSHIP gathered, is two-fold: to smoke out suspects who escaped from the SARS detention camp following Monday's invasion by gunmen and to arrest the attackers who are said to be in the nation's capital.
The Defence Headquarters appears to have been shaken by the terror attacks on the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Kaduna State, last Sunday, and the subsequent attack on the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) headquarters on Monday.
Sources from Defence Headquarters told LEADERSHIP that the Air Force, the Navy and the State Security Service (SSS) are to conduct separate probes into the attacks, adding that the separate probes would be collapsed to arrive at a multi-dimensional security strategy.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the search party took off from some of the communities located around the SARS detention camp. The operatives were said to have stormed the communities, shooting sporadically to announce their presence. The officers were said to have also arrested some miscreants who engaged in petty crimes.
Other places combed by the operatives, LEADERSHIP further learnt, included the Apo Mechanic Village, Lagos Street in Garki Village, shanties located around high profile residences such as Asokoro, Wuse District, Jabi and Utako. Suburbs such as Kubwa, Bwari and settlements along the Airport Road were not left out. Undisclosed numbers of persons were said to have been arrested by the operatives and taken to undisclosed locations within the FCT.
New facts have emerged over the Monday invasion of the SARS headquarters by gunmen. LEADERSHIP learnt that about 40 policemen were on duty at the time the gunmen invaded the office. These, sources said, could have been adequate to repel the attack.
The source told LEADERSHIP that the gunmen, whose number were about that of the policemen on duty, sneaked into the premises of SARS detention camp through the back fence and started shooting sporadically, before penetrating into the detention camp where various suspects were kept. They were said to have used bullets to shatter the key of the various doors before freeing the detainees.
It was further gathered that as soon as the policemen on duty heard the sophisticated gunfire of the attackers, they fled into hiding, giving the gunmen ample space and time to execute their mission.
The source disclosed that though he could not ascertain the actual number and identity of suspects set free by the invaders, it is believed that the escapees were more than the number declared by the police. The source added that suspects detained in the SARS office were high profile including Boko Haram and hardened armed robbers.
He also disclosed that the number of rearrested suspects he saw were only six and not 25 as claimed by the police spokesman, Mr Frank Mba, who had claimed in a statement that only about 30 suspects escaped while 25 of them had been rearrested through "tactical and coordinated efforts."
Mba had said that on November 26, 2012, at about 2am, unknown gunmen in large numbers attacked the premises of SARS but that policemen on duty had "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."
LEADERSHIP sources further disclosed that the police officers had fled for safety because of the limited quantity of arms and ammunition provided to them by the authorities while on duty.
He alleged that the number of ammunition provided to each policeman was not more than five and senior officers could get up to 10, while each of the attackers usually had between 20 and 50 ammunition.
FCT police spokesperson, Doris England, could not be reached on phone while Force spokesman, CSP Frank Mba, was reacting to the various claims when his phone went off and could not be reached until the time of going to press.
Defence headquarters shaken by Jaji bombings
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Ibrahim, has set up a panel to investigate the suicide bomb attack at Jaji Military Cantonment on Sunday.
The CDS disclosed this yesterday while fielding questions from journalists shortly after inspecting St. Andrews Protestant Church at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC) in Jaji, Kaduna State, the target of the twin bomb attack.
Ibrahim, who expressed shock at the ease with which the attack was successfully carried out, said the outcome of the investigation would determine the action to be taken by the Defence Headquarters.
He stressed that a thorough investigation had commenced and that the outcome would soon be known, adding that the findings would "determine the next line of action by the Defence Headquarters in the next few days."
On what charges are expected to be preferred against the soldiers manning the gates of the cantonment, especially as the bombers were alleged to have beaten security checks, the defence chief said that the investigation would identify those at fault.
According to him, "The board of enquiry will reflect blame-worthiness of the few and then we will treat it on its merit, but we cannot pre-empt what took place and how the bomb-laden vehicles got into the cantonment."
"We also respect the due process and the rule of law, and there are codes out there that we must insist on because that is the only way we can render justice; but the report itself is the only thing that can define precisely who is to blame and who is not to be blamed, and who is to be rewarded for exemplary actions."
Admiral Ibrahim who spoke to newsmen in front of the AFCSC headquarters after his meeting with the commandant, however, stated that the incidence meant that "we could not afford to take anything for granted."
According to him, "We will put it behind us quickly after the board of inquiry and then we will put some other mechanisms in place to prevent this incident."
Eleven persons were killed and 30 others injured when two bombs went off during the afternoon church service.
Four other victims on admission in hospitals were reported dead on Monday by the commandant of the college, AVM Abdullahi Kure.
Meanwhile, impeccable sources confided in LEADERSHIP yesterday that a multi-dimensional approach would be adopted in the probe, and would involve the Army, Air Force, the Navy and the Defence Headquarters.
According to the source, other security services like the police and the State Security Service (SSS) will conduct separate probes in order to thoroughly unravel the circumstances of the Jaji bombings.
Already, the Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, hurriedly left Asaba, Delta State capital, where he was attending the Chief of Army Staff Conference billed to officially end on Thursday, for Abuja, yesterday, for a meeting with the president and the service chiefs to evolve a comprehensive framework for a comprehensive probe.
At the end of the separate probes, reports would be collated and compared in a bid to get to the root of the attack. Names of members of the committees are expected to be announced next week.
Minister summons FCT security council
Meanwhile, the FCT minister, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, has summoned an emergency security council meeting over the terror attack on the headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja on Monday.
A statement by the chief press secretary to the minister, Muhammad Sule, said the emergency meeting, held at the office of the FCT minister at Area 11, Garki I District, Abuja, was well attended by the acting FCT permanent secretary, Alhaji Nuhu Ahmed, FCT chief of staff, Alhaji Yau Mohammed Gital, Commander, Guards Brigade, FCT police commissioner, director, FCT Command of the State Security Service (SSS) as well as the heads of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) respectively.
The minister, who expressed sorrow over the loss of lives during the unfortunate incident, expressed dismay that such an attack was carried out successfully in the nation's capital, the statement said.
Senator Mohammed directed the FCT police command to always be on high alert so as ensure the safety of lives and property of all the residents of the capital territory.
He called on the various security agencies to collaborate among themselves and with the residents of the FCT in order to maintain efficient security of live and property.
The minister emphasized the need for intelligence gathering and called on FCT residents to offer security agents useful information that will assist them in their tasks, just as he reiterated the commitment of his administration to support the security agencies, stressing that security is everybody's business.