By Vincent Ujumadu
Gunmen Tuesday attacked the venue of a rally organized by All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, at Odoata Central School Field, Ihiala during which they engaged security operatives in Governor Willie Obiano’s convoy in a shootout that lasted over one hour.
Although a soldier was shot during the shootout, there were unconfirmed reports that no fewer than six people lost their lives, while several people were injured.
It was gathered that the attackers came from Mgbidi in Imo State, which is a neighbouring local government with Ihiala in Anambra State.
A source said APGA was preparing to hold a political rally in the area when the gunmen suddenly attacked the venue when preparations were still on and started firing, adding that the firing started at a time the governor was arriving with his convoy, forcing his security details to repel the attackers.
State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, who confirmed the attack, said one Ak 47 riffle, two magazines with 30 rounds of ammunition and a Toyota Hilux van were recovered from the attackers.
According to the PPRO, the police and military are currently on ground, while mop up operation is ongoing. He, however, added that normalcy had since returned to the area.
Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C Don Adinuba said the gunmen were unable to withstand the fire power of the security operatives and they had to run into the busy Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital opposite the campaign ground.
Adinuba said: “A combined team of policemen and soldiers this afternoon repelled an attack by unknown gunmen at Odoata Central School, Ihiala, where the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was scheduled to organize a campaign rally for the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra State.
“The gunmen came on various motorcycles and in three vehicles, namely, a Toyota Lexus 350 ES with registration number EKY 765 EX, Toyota RAV4 with number JJJ 434FP and a Ford van whose number could not ascertained because it caught fire during the exchange of bullets between the gun men and security forces.
The gunmen, unable to withstand the superior fire power of the soldiers and police officers, quickly ran into the large premises of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital which is directly opposite the campaign ground.
“They suffered serious injuries, even though they managed to shoot a gallant soldier. If the gunmen had not run into the hospital which is a very delicate place to shoot any person, the security men would have gunned all of them down them”.
“Security forces, who recovered all three vehicles and motorcycles used by the gunmen, were searching the area to fish out the attackers.
According to the Commissioner, the Anambra State Police Command had requested the people in the area to help look out for people with gunshots wounds and report them, just as authorities of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Ihiala and other health facilities in the local government area, as well as neighbouring communities in Imo State were asked to report to security agencies patients with gun wounds.
Meanwhile, Governor Obiano has commended police officers and soldiers for repelling the attack by the gunmen in a professional manner.
Speaking at Atani in Ogbaru LGA where he welcomed the APGA governorship candidate in the forthcoming election, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Obiano described the response of the security men as not only professional, but an exhibition of patriotism.
Soludo, who earlier in the year lost three policemen guarding him when he was attacked on March 31 in his hometown of Isuofia, Aguata local Government Area while addressing the youth of the town, lauded the security forces for bravery at Ihiala.
“These security men and women in Anambra State lay down their lives for us and they do their best because of the encouragement they receive from the security-conscious state government, among other factors. We expect more professional exhibition as days go by and as the election date approaches”, he said.
The APGA candidate expressed sympathy for innocent victims of the attack and pleaded with aggrieved persons in the state to lay down their weapon and opt for dialogue to resolve all differences in the interest of the people.