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    Monday, March 31, 2014

    Heavy gunfire at SSS Headquarters

    Deputy Director, Public Relations, Department of State Services,   Ms. Marylyn Ogar


    Security was  beefed up around the Presidential Villa and other parts of Abuja on Sunday morning as heavy shootings were recorded at the  headquarters of the State Security Service.

    The SSS headquarters, known as Yellow House, is located behind the Villa.

    The access gate to the Villa through the Fire Service office in Asokoro was quickly shut while more heavily armed soldiers were seen at the gate leading to the nation’s seat of power through the Federal Secretariat.

    Military helicopters were also seen hovering over the area.

    One of  our correspondents who attempted to access the SSS headquarters area through the Aso Drive was turned back alongside other motorists in front of the Millennium Park by armed SSS operatives.

    The PUNCH learnt  from a source  that trouble started when one of the suspects in the SSS custody, believed  to be a Boko Haram  member,  overpowered an operative who was in his cell to deliver food to him.

    The suspect was said to have shot the operative with a rifle and went ahead to release his co-suspects.

    The source said, “An operative went to give food to a suspect this (Sunday) morning. The suspect was not properly chained, so he pushed down the operative and quickly dispossessed him of his rifle and shot him.

    “He quickly released his co-inmates who started escaping with some scaling the fence.”

    The incident led to a gun battle between the suspects and the SSS operatives.

    It was  learnt that in the process, 21 suspects believed to be Boko Haram members,  were killed while about 20 were re-arrested.

    Two rifles were recovered from them while two SSS operatives were also said to have been critically injured.

    The     Deputy Director, Public Relations, Department of State Services,   Ms. Marylyn Ogar,   confirmed the shootings  but   did not give the  identities of  detainees who attempted the jailbreak.

    Ogar   said in an electronic mail on Sunday  that a detainee  struck one of the operatives  handlers  on the back of his head with his handcuff.

    She added  that the attempt by the detainee to escape  made other SSS operatives on guard to fire shots to prevent others from escaping from the facility.

    According to her, the gunshots attracted the attention of the military, which according to her, had an understanding of mutual protection with the SSS in the event of any threat.

    Ogar  said, “At 0715 hours, the service suspect handler went to the detention facility within the headquarters to give food to the suspects.

    “One of the suspects attempted to disarm him by hitting him at the back of his head with his handcuff. His attempt to escape drew the attention of other guards at the facility who fired some shots to warn and deter others.

    “The Army immediately deployed a team to reinforce our perimeter guards to forestall any external collaborators. The situation has since been brought under control.”

    She explained    in another statement later on Sunday,   that the roads leading to the headquarters of the SSS were initially cordoned off to prevent  a possible assistance from “external collaborators.”

    According to her, the entire neighbourhood was thoroughly searched after which the roads were open to the public.

    The SSS spokesperson restated the determination of the service to continue to ensure the safety of Nigeria and its citizenry.

    However, as of the time of filing this report, security operatives were still combing the thick bush that surrounds the Yellow House in search of the  fleeing suspects.

    Ogar, in her third statement on Sunday, said 21 people died during the incident.

    But she did not indicate whether the dead were inmates or not.

    She  said, “Following our earlier releases, it has been established that 18 casualties were recorded, while two  service personnel sustained serious injuries. Three other detainees who sustained gunshot injuries during the incident have also died.”

    The SSS spokesperson said that investigation was still ongoing to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the incident.

    When the news of the incident spread, security was also quickly beefed up at the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Area 11.

    The NPF headquaters, known as Louis Edet House, is not too far from the Presidential Villa.

    An Armoured Personnel Carrier was used to completely block a lane on the road leading to the Federal Secretariat with motorists driving one way.

    In a bid to douse  speculations that the Presidential Villa was affected by the SSS headquarters’ shootings, the Presidency said President Goodluck Jonathan was “safe and well.”

    The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, made the clarification on his Twitter handle.

    “What happened at the SSS HQs has nothing to do with the Villa. President Jonathan is safe and well. Thank you for your concern and support,” Abati wrote.

    The presidential spokesman further explained that the incident at the SSS headquarters was an attempted ‘jailbreak’ that was foiled, adding that there was no cause for alarm.

    “What happened at the SSS HQ this (Sunday) morning was an attempted jailbreak which has been effectively foiled. There is no cause for alarm,” he wrote.



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