Robbers attacked two banks and a police station, killing 15 people including nine police officers in Offa, central Nigeria, police learned Friday.
Late Thursday afternoon, “a gang of robbers invaded police and bank headquarters in Offa,” Ajayi Okasanmi, police spokesman in Kwara State, told AFP.
“We lost nine policemen and six civilians. We have wounded people who are currently being treated in hospital,” he said, adding that they were “simultaneous operations.
He added that the police officers had been attacked by surprise, without however detailing the precise circumstances under which the victims had been killed.
“It would have been worse if the police had retaliated forcefully, but we would have endangered the lives of civilians” at the scene of the attacks, the spokesman added.
The police station and banks targeted by the armed assailants are located in the commercial district of Offa, a locality of about 100,000 inhabitants in Kwara State.
The Kwara authorities ordered a “thorough investigation” to facilitate the arrest of the robbers.
“It is purely a criminal act, we do not attribute it to any particular group,” he said.
However, the police were not able to indicate immediately what amounts were stolen from the banks under attack.
According to a witness who wished to remain anonymous, the heavily armed robbers arrived in a group of about fifteen and split into two groups, one attacking the banks and the other the police station, “where they opened fire indiscriminately, killing several police officers”.
In the banks, they “shot people they saw inside, many in the head,” he said. “They took money from the banks in bags before they fled on motorcycles that were taken from their drivers.”
Robberies and kidnappings for ransom are very frequent in Nigeria, a giant country of 180 million inhabitants that is also affected by several armed conflicts, including the jihadist insurrection of Boko Haram in the north-east.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, elected in 2015, has deployed the army in recent months in many states across the country to contain violence and compensate for the lack of responsiveness of police forces and an effective judicial system.