At least 20 soldiers were killed in an ambush by bandits along the Zungeru-Tegina Road in Niger State late Sunday night, witnesses and security sources told Daily Trust yesterday.
It was learnt that seven other soldiers and five vigilantes sustained varying degrees of gunshot injuries and were taken to the IBB Specialist Hospital, Minna, the state capital.
Sources said the soldiers were on their way to some communities recently attacked by bandits in Wushishi Local Government Area.
The bandits had, on Friday, invaded several villages in the area, forcing dozens of farmers to flee to Wushishi and Zungeru.
A military source, who spoke to our correspondent on Monday, put the number of the slain soldiers at 20.
The official said those killed were 18 army personnel and two officers of the Nigerian Air Force.
Another source said the bandits were crossing the Zungeru-Tegina Road with a large number of cattle around Kundu village in Rafi Local Government Area “when they came in contact with the military personnel drafted to the area and began an exchange of fire, leading to the death of the soldiers.”
A resident said: “The information is true; there was an encounter between soldiers and bandits on the outskirts of Kundu village that resulted in the loss of 12 soldiers on Sunday evening.”
But the senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Mohammed Sani Musa, confirmed to reporters in Abuja yesterday that 13 soldiers were killed during the incident. He appealed to the federal government to dispatch military and security arsenals to the troubled areas to save innocent lives and their property.
Musa said: “This is a very serious situation happening at a time we are happy that the issue of banditry is subsiding in our various communities in Niger State.
“The federal government should as a matter of urgency, deploy all its arsenal in order to curtail further spread.
“We have been having a reduction in cases of attacks, but now, it appears as if there is a serious escalation of the situation.
“The most alarming situation now is that the attacks look like planned work because the bandits are carrying out their operations simultaneously in many parts of Niger State.
“Government should please, as a matter of urgency, take a drastic action on it and save the lives and property of our people.”