At least 11 military officials have been killed in a gun battle with gun runners and armed bandits at different locations in Niger State, north-western Nigeria, a military official said on Sunday.
Eight of the armed bandits were also killed in the shootout while 57 others were arrested.
Spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sani Usman, said that the attack occurred during cordon and search in different locations following covert surveillance and intelligence reports on the activities of some gun runners and armed bandits in Kopa, Dagma and Gagaw villages of Bosso Local Government Area, Niger State.
Troops of 31 Artillery Brigade, 1 Division Nigerian Army, in conjunction with Nigeria Air Force detachment on Internal Security Operation MESA were in the operation to recover suspected weapon cache and arrest the suspected persons and the armed bandits.
“The troops were on legitimate official duty aimed at safeguarding lives and property of citizen in the area.
“While approaching and deploying to carry out their lawful duty, the troops came under simultaneous and sporadic shootings in all the three locations.
They, however, responded as necessary in line with the rules of engagement.
“Sadly, an officer and eight soldiers of the Nigerian Army and two Airmen of the Nigeria Air Force lost their lives in the line of national duty,” a statement by Colonel Usman said.
He stated that “one soldier is still missing” while two of their colleagues were seriously wounded.
The suspected gun runners and armed bandits also burnt down four operational vehicles and vandalised two others.
The bandits also carted away four AK-47 rifles and one Fabrique Nationale (FN) rifle belonging to the deceased soldiers.
Colonel Usman said that the troops killed eight of the armed bandits and arrested 57 others while large quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered.
‘Suppliers Of Arms’
The recovered items include; three AK-47 rifles, 10 Local AK-47 Rifles, nine Locally made Pistols, six Revolver guns, which fires 7.62mm (Special ammunition), 45 Loaded Dane guns, 10 Clubs and Cudgels, 41 Arrows, 18 Bow cases, 122 Cutlasses and Machetes as well as 20 Daggers.
Other items are 31 Axes, 63 rounds of 7.62 (Special) Ammunition, 10 Bajaj Motorcycles, Assorted Charms and Amulets, two Vehicles, 38 mobile telephone handsets, a wristwatch, five Identity Cards, Passport Photographs, Cash sum of 23,870 Naira, five Japanese Yen and 35 different denominations of old Nigerian currency, 15 Catapults, eight Torchlights, two Gun Powder bottles, four empty cases of Ammunition and 41 Cartridges.
The troops also seized a military Waist Belt and a pair of military Combat Boots.
The army spokesman emphasised that the nefarious activities of the gun runners and the armed bandits had direct bearing with the influx of weapons and general insecurity in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory and the North West geo-political zone.
He said: “The same gun runners have been confirmed to be the suppliers of arms to armed robbery gangs that were involved in series of armed robbery attacks along Minna-Bida road and the general environment.
“Although the situation is under control, the military will not rest on its oars until all those involved are arrested and brought to justice”.
Colonel Usman further assured Nigerians that the military would continue to deal with any violent threat to national security and urged all law abiding citizens to go about their lawful duties, as the cordon and search operation continues in the general area.
He said the operation could, if necessary, be expand to other identified areas to keep Nigerians safe.