Abuja — About 22 insurgents were feared killed during a the Sunday morning fierce shootout at the headquarters of the State Security Service, SSS, located less than 30 meters from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The insurgents were said to have been shot after they escaped from their cells and engaged the operatives in a fierce gun battle.
An authoritative security source told PREMIUM TIMES that trouble started when an operative went to feed one of the suspected insurgents in one of the cells in the maximum security facility.
Apparently careless, the source said, the operative failed to observe laid down security caution while trying to feed the inmate.
Ordinarily, he said operatives are not expected to enter cells to feed inmates, adding that the operative, who was caught off-guard, not only entered the cell, but also went in with his service pistol.
He said, "When he got into the cell, the suspected insurgent immediately disarmed the operative and shot him at point-blank range.
"From there, he started shooting other armed operatives inside the premises and freeing his fellow detainees, who also joined in fighting for their escape."
The source said an alert was triggered within the highly fortified security facility and a full-scale hunt was declared to ensure that none of the insurgents running around free could make out to safety.
While the skirmishes lasted, the source said the insurgents, who had seized guns from some of the operatives within the premises put up a fierce resistance.
They were, however, crushed by the superior firepower of the military who were hurriedly deployed and surrounded the entire facility.
The source also said a number of operatives were killed and others injured during the early-morning gun battle.
In an earlier statement, the SSS spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, confirmed that the gun battle began after a detainee disarmed an operative and tried to effect a jailbreak.
She stated, "At 0715 hours, the Service suspect handler went to the detention facility within the Headquarters to feed the suspects.
"One of the suspects attempted to disarm him by hitting him at the back of his head with his handcuff. His attempt to escape drew the attention of other guards at the facility who fired some shots to warn and deter others.
"The gun shots attracted the attention of the military with which we have an understanding of mutual assistance in the event of any threat.
"The Army immediately deployed a team to reinforce our perimeter guards to forestall any external collaborators. The situation has since been brought under control."
However, in a recent statement, Ms. Ogar confirmed that 18 insurgents were killed while three others sustained gunshot wounds.
Ms. Ogar did not disclose the number of SSS operatives who were either killed or injured during the attack.
But knowledgeable security sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the SSS narrative begs further questions because they seem "untrue and misleading".
The sources frame their doubts around the presumed impenetrability of the DSS facility and headquarters; the unusually huge military intervention force; the quality of ordinance deployed; and the prolonged period of gun exchange.
"The truth is that a jailbreak is impossible in the SSS headquarters," one of our sources said."It has two fences and is highly fortified. And there is no way a man on handcuff could launch an attack vicious enough to disarm an operative.
"Also our people need to tell the world whether it was only one gun taken from the disarmed operative that the detainees used in engaging soldiers and SSS operatives in sustained gun battle for about three hours.
"If it is about subduing one man who attempted a jailbreak, why did we need truckloads of fully armed soldiers and deployment of Armoured Personnel Carriers, RPGs and other sophisticated weapons?
"Also, why did the exchange of fire last for so long? Why did we have to deploy helicopter gunships to hover around the villa and Yellow House (SSS headquarters).
"Nigerians should demand the truth. I can tell you that a more serious incident happened than our people are willing to admit and there is a serious attempt at cover-up."
Some residents of the area also believe what happened could not have been just an attempted jailbreak.
"Whatever this is, it appears more serious than an attempted jailbreak claimed by the SSS," former Minister Nasir El-Rufai, who live a few meters away from the SSS headquarters said. "May God Protect the innocent and destroy the murderers, kidnappers and planners of genocide, Amen."
Another former minister, whose home neighboured the SSS headquarters, Femi Fani-Kayode said,"I live 50 metres away from the SSS headquarters and the Villa and what I witnessed with my eyes and heard this morning was a full scale battle."
The entire vicinity of the presidential palace and the SSS headquarters has been cordoned off, making it impossible for journalists to do area assessment with a view to determining what actually happened.