A spontaneous exchange of gunfire raged near Abuja on Thursday night between Nigerian soldiers and armed bandits, according to a security officer and witnesses’ accounts.
The battle reportedly took place between Zuba and Madalla, both satellite communities of the Nigerian capital city, with the latter being part of the contiguous Niger state, witnesses said, without immediate reports of fatalities.
Witnesses said that the bandits were reportedly making an eastern push into the nation’s capital when Nigerian soldiers intercepted them at joint security forces barricades close to Zuma Rock.
“We were going on patrol when we heard about an ongoing fight between soldiers and bandits,” a police officer in the nation’s capital told Peoples Gazette by telephone late Thursday. “They tried to radio us that it was a bad situation there.”
The officer said the situation was too fuzzy to provide further details about the attack, speaking under anonymity because he was not an authorised police spokesperson. Soldiers from Suleja Barracks were said to have been put on high alert, although it was unclear if the facility was attacked.
Witnesses’ accounts, including videos on social media, revealed severe traffic build-up as motorists remained trapped on the Abuja-Kaduna highway amidst fear of being caught in the crossfire.
Abdullahi Saidu, a resident of Zuba, told The Gazette the bandits had reportedly attacked villages while foraging along the highway.
“The bandits attacked some villages near Madalla and packed food on their motorbikes,” Mr. Saidu said. “Some of the village people have been running towards Madalla because the bandits are riding their motorcycles to Abuja.”
A spokesman for the Nigerian Army did not immediately return a request about the attack, which comes three days after about a dozen soldiers were killed by bandits in Bwari, another suburb of the Nigerian capital.
The Nigerian Army said 30 bandits who took part in the attack were killed, although no independent confirmation was provided, and the military’s internal memo did not report enemy casualties during the battle near the Nigerian Law School.
Earlier on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari held a meeting of national security chiefs at the State House, during which he reportedly gave security agencies additional instructions on how to forestall the raging insecurity.