No fewer than 21 persons believed to be detained members of the deadly Boko Haram sect were killed in Sunday’s jail break attempt at the Department of State Services, DSS, headquarters in Abuja.
Although there is no official confirmation of the involvement of the group, spokeswoman for the DSS, Marilyn Ogar, confirmed the deaths in a statement after she initially downplayed the event.
Ogar, in a previous statement said that “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.”
She said his attempt to escape drew the attention of other guards at the facility who fired some shots to warn and deter others.
However, in a later statement, the DSS spokeswoman confirmed that 21 detainees died while two security men sustained serious injuries.
“It has been established that 18 casualties were recorded, while two service personnel sustained serious injuries. Three other detainees who sustained gunshot injuries during the incident have also died. Meanwhile, (an) investigation is still ongoing to ascertain the immediate and remote causes,” she said.
She added: “What happened at the SSS HQs has nothing to do with the (Presidential) Villa. President Jonathan is safe & well. Thank you for your concern & support.”
It is believed that an operative had against the rules went to the holding cell where Boko Haram insurgents were been detained alone and was successfully disarmed, attacked and injured. The inmates then proceeded to attempt an escape, and in the process got killed.
It is still not known how they got guns with which they engaged security men in a gun battle that residents of the area said lasted several hours.
A visit to the DSS headquarters and the Presidential Villa area Sunday afternoon did not show any indication of any serious breach of security.
However, security was beefed up at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, venue of ongoing 7th meeting of African Finance Ministers and other strategic locations in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The additional armed men, seen within the vicinity of the hotel, include soldiers, police and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
The armed men were supported by sniffer dogs as they took positions within and outside the hotel.
Security was also beefed up in and around military and other security offices, the Shehu Shagari Road, where the Force Headquarters is located, had been barricaded with armoured personnel carrier, same for the Ministry of Defence, Area 10, Garki, Abuja.