The Nigerian Army late Wednesday said the police officers who were fired at in Taraba State on Tuesday were mistaken for kidnappers by soldiers.
Three police and one civilian fatalities were recorded after soldiers opened fire on a police team along Ibi-Wukari Road. More police officers who took part in the operation were also injured.
The police announced on Wednesday evening that soldiers killed an inspector and two sergeants as a police team was taking a high-profile kidnap suspect from a remote community in Taraba State to Jalingo, the state capital.
The police also said many officers were injured and the suspect was freed by soldiers.
The Nigerian Army blamed a communication gap for the attack, which the police described as ‘bizarre.’
The army said the troops attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, pursued a white bus conveying 10 persons they thought were kidnappers, not knowing that the bus was mostly occupied by police officers from the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Abuja. The officers were on a covert mission to arrest the kidnap suspect who was identified as Alhaji Hamisu.
The army also said troops responded to a distress call from villagers that Mr Hamisu was kidnapped, blaming the police for not properly coordinating the raid and causing confusion.
“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,” Army spokesperson Sagir Musa said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES.