The Nigerian Army on Wednesday offered explanation for the circumstances which led to the killing of three policemen on covert duties in Taraba State by its personnel.

A statement issued by the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sagir Musa said the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) operatives of the Nigeria Police refused to stop at three military checkpoints and then engaged the soldiers in a shootout.

The Force Public Relations Officer, DSP Frank Mba had earlier on Wednesday said three operatives of the IRT headed by DCP Abba Kyari were gunned down by the soldiers in Taraba State despite identifying themselves as being on covert operation to arrest one Alhaji Hamisu, a suspected kidnapper.

Hamisu was said to have been involved in several crimes, including kidnapping. In one of his recent kidnap operations in which an oil magnate in Taraba State was the victim, the police say he collected the sum of N100 million as ransom.

Mba said as Hamisu was being driven to the Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo, the state capital, the team came under heavy shooting by soldiers, resulting in the death of three policemen, a civilian and the subsequent escape of the suspect.

Reacting to the claim by the Police spokesman, Col. Musa said some villagers had raised the alarm that the operatives were in an unmarked bus and they refused to stop at the checkpoints, resulting in the soldiers giving them a hot chase.

The statement read: “On the unfortunate incident that occurred on the 6th of August 2019 in which troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army, Takum pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the Team.

“On the 6th of August 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distress call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.

“The suspected kidnappers, numbering about ten (10) and driving in a white bus with Reg. No. LAGOS MUS 564 EU refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive check points.

“The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops.

“It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically, thus prompting them to return fire.

“In the resultant fire fight, four (4) suspects were shot and died on the spot while four (4) others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and 2 others reportedly missing.

“It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed policemen dispatched from Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment.”