Bandits block Enugu-Harcourt highway, burn military van, abduct scores of travellers

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Tens of passengers were reportedly abducted by kidnappers suspected to be herdsmen along the Enugu-Port Harcourt highway between Leru junction and Ihube axis on Monday. The heavily armed bandits numbering over 30 were said to have abducted occupants of three buses with 18 passengers each at a location less than a kilometre from a military checkpoint. Easterner had reported that gunmen suspected to be herdsmen militias kidnapped the Methodist Prelate Dr Samuel Uche alongside two other bishops in the same location and a ransom of N100 million was paid to free them. There were also several reports of kidnapping by a gang of bandits suspected to be the same one with allegations that Nigerian soldiers in the area were actively involved in the kidnapping ring.
Meanwhile, the bandits allegedly attacked a team of soldiers drafted to the scene following a distress call, according to Vanguard. They reportedly set the military van on fire and wounded two soldiers before taking all occupants of the three buses into the bush. A youth leader in Umunneochi, who spoke with the newspaper said the situation had heightened anxiety in the area. He said the bandits took advantage of the evening rain on Saturday to block the highway, causing gridlock that stretched to Leru junction as commuters mistook them for policemen.

According to him, some of the commuters who had gotten down from their vehicles to verify the cause of the gridlock took to their heels when the bandits opened fire on a military van that came to repel the attack. He said some people sustained bullet wounds as motorists abandoned their vehicles and scampered to safety. Eze Chikamnayo, Abia State police commissioner, who is also the Secretary of the newly inaugurated Umunneochi Security Committee established to ensure security in the area, said the attack occurred on Saturday.
He, however, added that it occurred at the Imo State side of the expressway.
The police chief said he needed more time to confirm the casualty figure.
“It happened at the expressway between Ihube and Umunneochi. In Umunneochi proper, there has been a mass reduction in the number of such incidents but they have migrated to the border between Umunneochi and Imo State.

“But Umunneochi Security Committee worked very hard. We are putting checkpoints and we have strengthened our vigilante, and have potentially repelled them.

“I think it’s a sign of victory for us that they have left Umunneochi LGA and migrated further towards the express. They are at the boundary between Abia and Imo, precisely at Ihube,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Abia State Police Public Relations Officer, Geoffrey Ogbonna did not answer when called on the telephone.

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