Dayo Johnson, Akure
IKARE, in Akoko North East area of Ondo State, was turned into a war arena on Tuesday, when a -25-member armed robbery gang invaded it, killing no fewer than 21 persons including eight policemen, one undergraduate, two secondary school pupils and five bankers.
Residents of the town cried uncontrollably as they raced to the scenes of tragedy to know the identities of those killed.
The robbers target was the bullion van of one of the old generation banks conveying N25m to the branch of the bank in Ikare.
But they also had plan B, that is, rob four other banks. First, they decided to go on shooting spree killing people indiscriminately to create fear in the town.
In a commando style, the robbers, said to have been dressed in MOPOL uniform, on arrival in the town at about 3pm on the ill-fated day, headed straight to a police station along Ikare/Owo Road, killed four policemen on duty and wounded four others.
The manner of their operation showed that they did their home work properly and knew when to strike.
A police source said: “The robbers used general purpose machine guns, improvised explosive devices and other sophisticated weapons and came in large number and syndicated themselves.”
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the robbers ended up robbing five different banks located along Banking Road in Jubilee area of Ikare.
Their dressing reportedly deceived security men at the entrance of the banks.
The security men, according to sources, thought they were in the bank to transact business only to later discover that they were robbers.
For over one hour, the robbers operated unhindered. Infact, the entire town was held hostage.
Two middle aged men, said to be graduates operating commercial motorcycle, popularly known as Okada, were shot dead in front of the police station where they had gone to ‘bail’ their motorcycles earlier seized by some policemen at a check point.
Some of those feared killed were transacting business inside the banking hall and the ATM of one of the attacked banks while majority of others killed had no connection with any of the banks but were killed for the fun of it because the robbers failed to rob the bullion van with N25m.
An unspecified amount of money were reportedly carted away by the robbers in the five banks which they bombed with dynamite and rocket launchers to gain entry.
An unconfirmed source said a prophet in one of the white garment churches, who was conducting a spiritual bath for a female member, was killed by the bullets of the robbers.
Gory sight of those killed littered the streets of the town.
A report said a man, who lost his wife during child birth, was shot dead with his son while they were coming from the child’s school.
Worried by the nature of the robbery, Governor Olusegun Mimiko drafted all the security chiefs in the state to Ikare to assess the situation.
Mimiko expressed concern about the sophistication of the weapons used by the robbers.
Also, the Director General of the National Sports Commission, Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye, who is from the area, said the town was mourning.
Elegbeleye put the figure of those killed at 21.
At the weekend, commercial and business activities remained completely paralysed in the ancient town.
All the banks in Ikare shut their doors to customers.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the town at the weekend, the police station attacked by the robbers was riddled with bullets while many of the shops located around the banks affected had bullet holes on the walls and the iron doors.
One eyewitness, Kayode Ajala, said that the robbers operated as if they were on war front.
According to him, the robbers must have done their home work before the operation as all the major roads were strategically manned by them to ward off any security intervention that may halt their operation.
Guns, he claimed, were booming from the four corners of the town indicating that they were strategically positioned.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the robbers came in two Volkswagen Golf vehicles and a bus wearing MOPOL uniform.
Those reportedly killed included school children heading home after school as they were caught in the sporadic shooting of the robbers.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that after the robbery, the robbers escaped through Iboropa Road to Edo State.
Corpses of the policemen and other victims which littered the streets were packed into pick up vans and deposited at the General Hospital, Ikare.
Meanwhile, tension mounted in the town at the weekend as a result of the killings.
The robbery incident is the second within two years.
The first was in 2013 when a robbery was carried out at night by a gang of armed robbers.
The robbery that year resulted in the closure of banks in Ikare for several months.
Infact the bank building that was robbed then was abandoned by the management of the bank and a new one built.
Ironically, the same bank was one of the five attacked by robbers on Tuesday.
The havoc caused by the robbers shook Ondo State Police Command to its foundation, but has vowed to smoke the robbers from their hiding places.
Image maker of the police command, Wole Ogodo, confirmed that the robbers were after N25million brought to one of the banks in a bullion van.