From Nonye Udumiri,
Residents of Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State were greeted with a new wave of insecurity on Tuesday night, as unknown gunmen clashed with soldiers.
News Echo learnt that the clash which started around past 9:30pm, forced residents to scamper for safety, as many casualties were recorded from both sides and innocent civilians.
However, military sources said that soldiers stationed at Ariaria junction, along the Aba–Port Harcourt Highway, killed 11 of the gunmen who engaged them in a fierce gun battle.
The sources however said that prior to the gunmen’s arrival, the soldiers had already gotten intelligence that they were coming to attack them and laid ambush for them.
Another source within the area said that gunmen on black arrived at Ariaria Junction, along the Aba-Port Harcourt Highway with some buses and began gun battle with soldiers stationed at a military checkpoint there.
The source said that the gun battle lasted for over one hour, as every vehicular and human movement got restricted, leaving the battle ground for the hoodlums and the soldiers.
He said, “I have closed work for the day, but I went to Brass Street to buy something. On my way returning to Ariaria, immediately after the junction leading to Ukwu-Mango, I heard gunshots. “I thought it was just the usual thing, but on getting closer, the gunshots became scary as people scamper for safety. I saw some people hit by bullets, while trying to escape.
“I had to run through St. Mary’s Abayi-Ariaria to find my way towards my house. Many people later said the hoodlums killed some soldiers whole soldiers killed some hoodlums as well, but I don’t know anything about who killed who.”
Another source who preferred anonymity said he nearly ran into the centre of the battle, but it took the intervention of God who made him call his driver to reverse and take another route when he noticed people running helter scatter.
“I was returning with my family when I noticed people running towards us while we were heading to the centre of the battle. By then, the gun battles haven’t started.
News Echo learnt that indiscriminate arrest of youths by soldiers have started in the Abayi-Ariaria, Uratta, Enyimba and Tonimas axis since Wednesday morning, as soldiers move into the streets hunting for the hoodlums.
When contacted to get official military confirmation on the incident and the level of casualties as rumored over the city, the 14 Brigade Army Public Relations Officer (APRO), Mr. Iliya Dauda said investigation is ongoing on the incident.
Meanwhile, reacting to the statement of the military source about the killing of 11 gunmen, Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu said it is a welcomed development.
“It is a good development; we welcome every necessary measure to protect the good people of Abia state. We called on our young men and women not to put themselves in harm’s way by attacking security agents under any guise. “We also urged them not to allow themselves to be used by politicians for any reason to cause insecurity. “Abia state government will do everything possible to protect law abiding citizens without fear of molestation.”