BY Sam Eyoboka & NDAHI MARAMA
MAIDUGURI— TWENTY suspected terrorists were killed weekend in Maiduguri, Borno State during a shoot-out between them and the Joint Task Force. It was also gathered that the JTF lost a soldier while two others sustained gunshot injuries in the duel.
Meanwhile, the Islamic sect popularly called Boko Haram has denied the JTF claim of killing 20 of its members. According to Abul Qaqa, spokesman of the group: “They (JTF) only succeeded in killing innocent civilians. It is not possible for 20 of our members to sit in a volatile place and hold meeting; it is not possible”. Qaqa who spoke by phone said his group will not relent in its offensive until a Sharia State is established across Nigeria.
Confirming the incident to newsmen, the Field Operations Officer of JTF in Borno State, Colonel Victor Ebhaleme said: “We got intelligence report that some suspected Boko Haram terrorists were having a meeting at a particular location in the metropolis. As we approached the venue of their meeting the suspects opened fire on the JTF which led to the killing of 20 of them, while we lost one soldier and two others sustained injury.”According to a military source, “the suspected terrorists were planning attack on the town”, noting that had the security operatives not moved immediately, the town would have been on fire perhaps by Sunday (yesterday).
Ebhaleme said the recent successes recorded by the JTF in its crackdown on terrorists were as a result of a change of strategy by the JTF which tends to treat the civil populace humanely.
He said the new tactics tagged “Humanitarian Line of Operation” tried to embrace the civil society.
Gunmen kill Policeman in Gombe church attack
Meanwhile one Policeman was said to have been over powered and killed by yet to be identified gunmen who attacked All Saints Catholic Church besides Kanoyel, Bogo, Gombe, Gombe State where several hundreds of faithful had gathered for the early Sunday morning worship yesterday.
Sources close to the church told our reporter last night that five gunmen approached the church between 9.00 and 10.00 a.m. while the service was on and as they made to shoot at the worshippers, two policemen who had been detailed to protect the church intervened.
In the shoot-out that ensued, five armed men were said to have over powered the security details, gunned down one of them while the second escaped with injuries. The gunmen were said to have made away with their riffles while the injured policeman was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital.
It was not clear if the Police in Gombe had arrested any of the gunmen, who eye witnesses said, escaped after police reinforcement stormed the scene.
Reacting to the development, director of Social Communications, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu condemned the continued attack on churches and worship centres and the waste of innocent lives. He charged northern elders to speak out against the killings in parts of the North.
The Lagos Catholic Archdiocesan spokesperson expressed disgust at the silence of the elders in the North and wondered why such mindless attacks can be tolerated even during the Ramadan season.
Osu condemned the latest in the wanton acts of terrorism, saying: “I am indeed tempted to call for a state of emergency to be declared in all the states where these things have continued unabated as if human life is no longer sacred.”
Osu condemns killings, urges Northern elders to speak out
According to him, these strange happenings in the North and the silence of northern elders have increased the clamour for state police, adding “it’s a wake up call for the nation’s legislators to accede to the calls for state and community police, because these things cannot be happening with such impunity.
“Not too long ago they told the nation that arms factories were discovered in certain parts of the country. Who own those properties that are being used as arms factories? What happened to all the people they arrested thus far?”
The new National Security Adviser told the nation that he had the phone numbers of Boko Haram leaders. What has he done thus far,” he kept asking.
According to him, the nation’s Police Force and the military should not give Nigerians and the world in general, the impression that they are incapable of handling the security situation in the country. “They must fish out the perpetrators of the carnage before the nation becomes another pariah state,” he added.
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