A yet-to-be identified soldier has been killed by gunmen during a shootout with Nigerian troops in Ebem, a community in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State, Nigeria’s South-east. The incident happened at about 5:02 p.m. on Wednesday near a motor park in the community, Easterner learnt. The slain soldier, serving at the 14 Brigade Headquarters of Goodluck Jonathan Barracks in the council area, was said to have gone into the community on a motorcycle to buy provisions when the gunmen attacked him. Sources said the soldier sent a signal to the Brigade when he noticed that the gunmen were trailing him, prompting military authorities in the Brigade to deploy troops for a rescue mission. A video clip of the shoot-out has gone viral on social media. In the clip, seen by Easterner, sounds of gunshots could be heard repeatedly in the background. Some residents were also heard screaming in fear. A resident of the area, Chukwuma Egbuma, told Easterner that a team of soldiers who arrived at the scene engaged the gunmen in a shootout, killing two of them at a spot.
“The army people came and started shooting at the gunmen. Two of the gunmen died instantly. The gunmen also killed one soldier,” he said.
Mr Egbuma, however, could not say if the slain soldier was the one initially attacked by the gunmen. He said the gunmen were suspected to be members of the Eastern Security Network, the militant wing of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). A shop owner, Chinenye Ajunwa, whose shop is close to the area, was hit by a stray bullet during the shootout. She was said to have been taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment. A photograph of her in the hospital has been circulating on social media. In the photograph, the victim was seen lying on a hospital bed and covered with a bloodstained cloth. A pool of blood was also seen on the ground, close to her bed. Clem Onwuka, another resident of the community, told Easterner Thursday that some roads in the area have been blocked by security agencies after the incident.
Army spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, did not respond to calls and a text message seeking comments from him. Security in Nigeria’s South-east has deteriorated lately with frequent attacks by armed persons. The attacks often target security agencies, government officials and facilities. In April, gunmen killed and then beheaded two soldiers – an intending couple – at an unknown location in Imo State, South-east Nigeria. The Nigerian government has accused IPOB of being responsible for the attacks in the region. But the separatist group has repeatedly denied the accusation. The separatist group is leading the agitation for an independent state of Biafra to be carved out from the South-east and some parts of the South-south. The leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, is detained in Abuja where he is standing trial for terrorism.