By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURTâ€”The Police in Rivers state yesterday gun down three hoodlums who allegedly took two hostage around Ugunabo village in Abia State.
Briefing newsmen on the development in his Moscow road office, the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Bala Hassan, said due to the rising cases of attack and abduction of residents of Port Harcourt travelling to Aba for business and other reasons, he had to reach an agreement with his Abia State counterpart for the Rivers State police command to deploy some men of its Anti-terrorism squad to the border between the two states.
He said at about 7am yesterday while these men of the anti-terrorism squad were on patrol in their armored personnel carrier (APC), some hoodlums in a Mercedes Benz car suddenly opened fire on the APC, thus causing a gun battle that lasted about forty five minutes at the end of which three of the hoodlums were killed while others fled.
He said his men later found a hostage in the boot of the Benz, adding that rifles and live ammunitions were among items recovered from the robbers.
Meanwhile, the released hostage, who gave his name as Vitalis Emeguru in a chat with news men at the premises of the police headquarters, said he left Obigbo in Rivers state and was on his way to Aba when he ran into the hoodlums who ordered him out of his car.
He said they initially wanted to escape with him and another hostage they had in their custody, in his Jeep but when he told them the car had no sufficient fuel, they had to drag him and the other hostage into a bus they came in.
He explained that as they drove the bus stopped suddenly on the way, which compelled them to snatch a Benz.
This time, according to him,Â they left the driver of the Benz, adding that he was forced into the boot of the Benz while the second hostage drove with them in the car.
Emeguru said he was not sure where they were heading to but suddenly again the Benz developed a problem.
He said that at this stage, the hoodlums became furious with the hostage inside the car with them. â€œI was in the boot when I heard them saying so it is your juju that has been stopping our vehicles. We will kill you first before we die,â€ he explained
He said he later heard a shot, noting that minutes after that, there was gun battle between the hoodlums and the police which lasted for some time.
He added that at the end of the shootout, the police recovered him from the boot of the car.
An elated Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bala Hassan, at the end of his briefing with the media, invited twelve members of the Anti-terrorism squad that engaged the hoodlums into his office for commendation.
He gave them a cash sum of N100,000 as on-the-spot motivation and appreciation for their act of gallantry.
He assured that he would raise a letter of commendation on their behalf to the police authorities for necessary action.
Families of the slain hostage were seen at the police headquarters crying.
A lady, who was said to be the deceased wife was in the manâ€™s Jeep that was recovered by the Police and parked at a corner inside the police headquarters.
A boy whose age was about seventeen said the deceased was his father, and when the police noticed that emotion was swelling among the family members, they quickly urged press men to leave them alone.
The police later drove out in a patrol vehicle with the corpses of the hoodlums and the unfortunate hostage to the morgue.