Eleven members of Operation Mesa, the internal security operation of 1 Division of the Nigerian Army and Air Force have been killed as they engaged in a fierce gun battle with a combined team of armed bandits and gun dealers in Niger State.
The Air Force lost two personnel, the army lost nine soldiers from 31 Artillery Brigade, including one officer, while two others are critically injured and another one is missing.
Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, in a statement issued on Saturday, said the military acted on surveillance and intelligence reports about the activities of the gangs in Kopa, Dagma and Gagaw villages of Bosso Local Government Area, Niger State, but as the troops made their way, the suspects opened fire from all three locations.
“The suspected gun runners and armed bandits also burnt down 4 operational vehicles and vandalized 2 others. Bandits also carted away 4 AK-47 rifles and one Fabrique Nationale (FN) rifle belonging to the deceased soldiers.
“The troops also killed 8 of the armed bandits and arrested 57 others. They also recovered large quantity of arms and ammunition,” the statement read.
Some of the weapons recovered include three AK-47 rifles, 10 Local AK-47 Rifles, nine locally made pistols, six revolver guns, which fire 7.62mm 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 recovered include 31 Axes, 63 rounds of 7.62 (Special) Ammunition, 10 Bajaj Motorcycles, Assorted Charms and Amulets, 2 Vehicles, 38 mobile telephone handsets, a wristwatch, 5 Identity Cards, Passport Photographs, Cash sum of N23,870.00k, 5 Japanese Yen and 35 different denominations of old Nigerian currency, 15 Catapults, 8 Torchlights, 2 Gun Powder bottles, 4 empty cases of Ammunition and 41 Cartridges.
The troops also seized a military Waist Belt and a pair of military Combat Boots,” the army added.
It said the suspects were responsible for supplying arms and ammunition to armed robbers terrorising people along the Minna-Bida road in the state, adding that the activities of the gun dealers affect security in parts of the Federal Capital Territory and Northwest of the country.
Despite calm returning to the affected areas, the army said it will continue its operation to ensure that other suspects are arrested and encouraged citizens to cooperate with it by remaining law abiding and volunteer information.