General News | 18 December 2006 14:51 CET


RAMPAGING robbers in commando -like manner, yesterday stormed seven banks in two different parts of Lagos leaving in their trail the death of no fewer than twenty-three persons with several others injured. The number of casualties is the highest recorded so far in a day.

One of the robbery incidents in which 16 persons lost their lives took place at the popular Alaba International market along the Lagos-Badagry expressway at about 6am.

Eye witnesses told Vanguard that some robbers numbering over fifty stormed five banks (names withheld) in the area in an unmarked commercial bus and another Toyota Camry car. The bandits, armed with sophisticated weapons, reportedly engaged over a hundred policemen who came to intercept them in one of the longest shoot- outs in recent times.

They were said to have gained entry into one of the banks and tied the security men with ropes, before making for the banking hall. While about fifteen of them were carrying out the operation, others reportedly stationed themselves in strategic positions outside and fired sporadically into the air to ward off intruders.

A team of policemen from Ojo Division said to be on patrol attempted to respond to the robbers fire-for-fire but were overwhelmed by their numbers. They reportedly beat a retreat and called for a back up, following which both conventional and Mobile policemen were drafted from the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), MOPOL 20 and 22 and the monitoring unit to combat the bandits.

A shoot-out said to have lasted for close to seven hours ensued in which two of the bandits were reportedly killed. When it became apparent that the robbers were almost exhausting their bullets, they attempted to escape through Olojo drive with the Police Armored Personnel Carrier following behind.

Unfortunately, a fully loaded commercial bus that was coming in the opposite direction, blocked the robbers' way, causing the robbers to release volleys of bullets on the bus.

In their confusion, the panic stricken passengers ran out in different directions, including the driver who eye witnesses said jumped out without turning off the ignition. This prompted the commercial bus to run into a nearby bush. Four passengers who were caught inside the bus died on the spot. Eye witness said about twelve other victims who were hit by the fleeing robbers' stray bullets also gave up the ghost .

The other robbery incident which claimed seven lives occurred at Ikorodu, a Lagos suburb. One of the injured victims, a blind beggar, is said to be responding to treatment in the hospital.

Contacted, the Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Olayinka Egbeyemi described Alaba International bank robbery as a foiled attempt, saying nothing was taken from the only bank that was broken into. He confirmed that two of the fifty-man gang were killed during the gun duel while four other others died in the bus that somersaulted. He also added that three members of the gang were arrested and are giving the police vital information that would lead to the apprehension of other fleeing members.

Recovered from the robbers according to him, were “assorted ammunition, many gas cylinders, hammers, chisel and other house breaking tools.”

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