by ‘Jola Sotubo
Despite reports saying that the 9 squatters killed in Abuja were innocent citizens, the army has insisted that they were terrorists.
This was revealed by the Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, who said that the squatters found in an uncompleted building in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were suspected terrorists who were making plans to bomb prominent areas of the FCT.
According to reports, the victims, who residents and rights activists claimed were artisans and tricycle operators, were killed in the building in the Apo environs of Abuja. One died in the hospital, raising the toll to 10. No fewer than 13 others were injured in the assault.
Gen. Ihejirika got support from Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Bala Mohammed. The two officials spoke at a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on National Security and Intelligence.
Gen. Ihejirika told the committee that the police were left out of the action because it was a specialized operation.
Besides, the Army boss said the operation was not the first of its kind as his men have succeeded in intercepting several intended terrorist attacks on the FCT.
According to him, there was information that a terrorist group was hiding explosives around Apo. This, he said, was thoroughly investigated and a move to remove the explosives was launched.
Mohammed corroborated Gen, Ihejirika’s account. He said the attack, which was coordinated by the Commander, Guards Brigade, was to intercept hidden improvised explosive devices (IED) in a cemetery.
According to Mohammed, there was planned operation, which he described as an isolated terrorist operation to bomb some critical installations in the FCT, such as the Radio House, shopping malls as well as churches on September 22.
He said: “It is imperative to mention here that the military, in collaboration with other security agencies have been working assiduously round the clock to ensure the containment of the heinous activities of the men f the underworld and particularly the Boko Haram in the FCT.
“The intelligence information available to the Guards Brigade confirmed that a number of IEDs to be used for the Sunday operation were buried in a cemetery in Apo area.
“The need to act swiftly to recover the explosive devices was necessary, hence the operation.
According to the minister, the intention was not to kill but to remove the improvised explosives devices.
“According to the security agencies, on approaching the identified uncompleted building which was claimed to harbour the explosives.
“The security operatives were fired at, which led to exchange of fire and the resultant casualties.
“As a civil and highly responsible administration, our immediate concern was how to manage the collateral damage that ensued from this genuinely intended operation.
“It is highly probable that some innocent persons might have been injured, which again highlights the danger of living with people unknown to you.”
Mohammed said as a fallout of the incident, owners of abandoned uncompleted buildings in the FCT would be sanctioned.
The minister also debunked claims that the twin duplex where the shooting took place was owned by a retired Army officer.
He said the plot was allocated in 2009 to Adunni Oluwola Salisu who, according to him got the approval to develop the property located off Abba Kyari Close, Apo Legislative Quarters Zone E.
The Bello Mutawalle-led Committee called for the demolition of the uncompleted twin duplex where the killing took place. But some members of the committee called for caution and urged the committee to defer its decision and allow the Senate to conclude its into the matter.