Not less than 26 troops of the Nigerian Army have been confirmed dead in an helicopter crash that occurred in the Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State on Monday.
Military sources disclosed this to AFP news agency on Monday night.
It was gathered that 13 of them were killed in an encounter on Sunday, while others were killed on Monday in an ambush in which a two-star captain and a major were reportedly involved.
According to reports, the security operatives were trying to block the Kundu route of the criminals who were about to cross with some rustled cattle when they were ambushed, leading to the casualties including five vigilantes who were injured with bullets.
It was reliably gathered that the bandits had rustled several animals from several communities and tried to cross from Akere to the northern parts of the country.
An eyewitness said they had a gun battle within a range of less than 100m but they were challenged because the criminals’ weapons were more sophisticated than theirs, leading to casualties.
Not less than 10 other security men were said to have been injured in the deadly attack with the bandits.
It was also gathered that about 50 bandits were killed in the encounter with their bodies left in the forest while those that were injured were ferried away by members of their gang.
It was further gathered that a military helicopter was used to convey the dead to the Federal Medical Centre Zingeru before a vehicle came Monday morning to evacuate the corpses to unknown destination.
The military confirmed that a helicopter on evacuation mission crashed Monday in Niger State. Edward Gabkwet, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Air Force had earlier confirmed the incident.
The helicopter was on its way to Kaduna from Niger State when it crashed.
He said:“The aircraft had departed Zungeru Primary School enroute Kaduna but was later discovered to have crashed near Chukuba Village in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
“Efforts are currently ongoing to rescue the crew and passengers on board the helicopter, while preliminary investigations have commenced to determine the probable cause of the crash.”
The statement was however silent on the slain soldiers.
Sources said it was possible that the slain soldiers were from either Kaduna or Maiduguri, deployed to neutralize bandits that had been terrorising residents in Rafi and Wushishi local government areas of the state in recent times.
However, it was learnt that the operation leaked to the bandits, resulting in their laying ambush for the soldiers and the high casualty figures.