Residents flee Ishawo after militants’ invasion
• DPO hospitalised over gunshot wounds
Residents of troubled Ishawo community in Ikorodu area of Lagos State, have deserted their homes following Sunday’s invasion that left no fewer than nine persons, including security operatives dead.
The Guardian gathered yesterday that residents in the area were still fleeing the ‘war zone’ in droves as they expressed fear of a possible reprisal attack by the military following Sunday’s gruesome killing of an Army captain and four policemen attached to Owutu Police Station.
Gunmen numbering about 40 and clad in military camouflages had stormed the area around 1:00a.m. on Sunday and wreaked havoc. All the shops on the busy Ishawo road were shut yesterday, while few residents, who stood outside their homes wore sad faces, looking at the ruins of their valuables. According to the residents, some of their loved ones were yet to be accounted for. .
Meanwhile, bodies of the policemen and an unidentified civilian have been taken to Ikorodu General Hospital mortuary. It was gathered that the gunmen earlier kidnapped more than nine persons, including a two-year-old, Chubuike Okeke .
While others were rescued by security operatives before the ambush, a community leader, Raheem Olanrewaju, said Okeke was still in the kidnappers’ den. He disclosed that they were contacted and asked to send N3,000 worth of recharge card, adding that the kidnappers said they wanted to make an urgent call.
But a police source said the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Owutu Division and a two-year old child survived the shooting on Sunday. They are currently being treated in an undisclosed hospital.
A resident, Shola Kuditi, told newsmen at Isawo that over 12 people were killed on Sunday. “Five of our community members are still missing. This is aside from the four policemen and an Army captain that were killed. Many people were also injured.
“As you can see, I am on my way to Ikorodu town as this place is no more habitable. One, we are afraid that the government security agencies, especially, the military may try to avenge the death of their colleagues, and you know that the militants are becoming too sophisticated. They may want to resist the military.
“We are afraid that our place is a theatre of war because the militants were quoted as threatening to come back for us and it is only a tree that will hear that they are going to kill it and will remain. We are running away from the place because it is going to be bloody when the security agencies come for the militants”.
Another resident, John Sofola, said it would be very difficult to know the casualty figure now as people ran to different directions amidst the confusion. As at 4:00p.m. yesterday, there was no presence of security operatives in the area contrary to the pledge by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, that he would deploy dozens of mobile policemen to protect residents.
A few community leaders were sighted looking terrified and discussing in low tones. The residents said the kidnappers came through the waterways into the creek and immediately, they gained entry into the community, they kidnapped about seven persons under intense sporadic shootings before the local vigilance group engaged them. It was later that the joint military and the police arrived to rescue the kidnapped residents.
Mr. Raheem Olanrewaju, a resident, confirmed that one person was still missing and that the kidnappers had contacted them. According to Olanrewaju, “the gun battle between the kidnappers and the police lasted for more than three hours during which the DPO in charge of Owutu Police Station was shot and a resident called Osazie was killed alongside others.
“Right now, there are no soldiers nor policemen in this area. We have recruited some Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and Onyabo vigilance group members to safeguard the few residents remaining, as we await the security forces to come back and dislodge these criminal elements,” he said.
However, in a statement by 81 Division’s Acting Deputy Director, Public Relations, Lieutenant Colonel Olaolu Saudi, the army narrated how the security operatives were killed.
The statement said: “Around 3”00a.m. on Sunday, a patrol team led by a Nigerian Army officer responded to a distress call. The distress call was from the police requesting for reinforcement because some suspected criminals had invaded Yewa Community, Ishawo in Ikorodu, and abducted some persons.
“The combined team in a swift response was able to successfully foil the kidnap attempt and rescue all the abducted victims. Nine of the victims, including an infant of about two years old were rescued from the criminals. However, on their way back, they were ambushed by a suspected criminal gang.
“During the clearance of the ambush, unfortunately four policemen lost their lives while the army officer who led the operation sustained gunshot wounds and died on the way to the hospital.
“Similarly, four of the rescued victims of the kidnap, including the infant, sustained injuries during the encounter. They have all been evacuated to a hospital and are responding to treatment.”