The Nigerian army says the police officers killed by its men were mistakenly taken as kidnappers.
On Wednesday, the police had accused the army of killing three of their personnel while freeing a kidnap suspect.
Reacting in a statement, Sagir Musa, army spokesman, said the refusal of the policemen to stop at the checkpoints prompted the action of the soldiers.
“The attention of the army headquarters has been drawn to the press release by DCP Frank Mba, force public relations officer, force headquarters, Abuja Ref No. CZ.5300/FPRD/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.2/68 Date: August 7, 2019 on the unfortunate incident that occurred on the 6th of August 2019 in which troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army Takum pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the Team,” the statement read.
“On the 6th of August 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten (10) and driving in a white bus with Reg No LAGOS MUS 564 EU refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive check points.
“The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops. It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically thus prompting them to return fire.
“In the resultant fire fight, four (4) suspects were shot and died on the spot while four (4) others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and 2 others reportedly missing. It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed Policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment.”
He said the commander of the troops asked at the police station in the area whether they were aware of any police team being dispatched to operate, but the divisional police officer responded that he was not informed about any operation.
According to him “this lent credence to the distressed call from members of the community that the policemen, on a covert mission, were rather suspected kidnappers.”
The army spokesperson said the incident is unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison as the police are partners in the fight against crimes such as kidnapping amongst myriads of other internal security threats confronting the country.
“In order to avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigerian Police have agreed to constitute a Joint lnvestigation Panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to jointly investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident,” he said.
“Therefore, until the Joint Investigation Panel concludes and submits its report, it will be premature to officially conclude and speak on the real circumstances that caused this unfortunate but very avoidable unfortunate incident.”