GUNMEN, in the early hours of Friday, invaded a mosque in Ughelli, Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, abducting an imam and injuring 11 other worshippers.
The suspected kidnappers, said to be about five, arrived at the mosque in a Toyota Sienna bus when the worshippers were observing their morning prayer (subhi).
The abducted imam was identified as Malam Muhammadu Sani, a native of Katsina State. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Bright Edafe, confirmed the incident, saying operatives were already after the gunmen to retrieve the abducted cleric.
Sources said the hoodlums shot sporadically into the air to scare residents around the mosque, which is located at Otovwievwiere Street in the Okorodafe axis of the Ughelli metropolis.
A resident identified simply as Larry said: “The attack happened this morning at about 6.00 a.m. We heard shootings at the mosque.
“Many people in my compound were frightened and we remained inside. We only peeped through our windows.
“As the shooting lasted, we heard loud cries from some of the worshippers inside the mosque.”
The secretary of the Arewa community in Ughelli North, Darlington Ahmed Garma, narrated what transpired to newsmen.
He said: “At about 6.15 a.m., unknown persons came in an ash-coloured Toyota Sienna and parked opposite the mosque.
“Two men entered the mosque. As they were taking the imam, Malam Muhammadu Sani, away, they told the remaining members that were performing their morning prayer to go outside.
“Before they got outside the mosque, 11 worshippers were shot and they are currently on admission at Ughelli Central Hospital.”
One of the injured victims, 63-year-old Muhammed Bagudu, who spoke from the hospital bed, disclosed that the masked gunmen entered the mosque and began to shoot at the worshippers.
“They shot me, my brother, one of the imams and went away with another imam, Muhammadu Sani, who is from Katsina State,” he said.
When newsmen visited the Ughelli Central Hospital, some of the 11 victims were being attended at the Accident and Emergency Unit.
In another development, some gunmen, on Thursday, stormed the palace of the Oloso of Oso-Ajowa in Akoko, Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, abducting the traditional ruler, Oba Clement Jimoh Olukotun.
The hoodlums struck at about 11.30 p.m. and whisked the traditional ruler away to an unknown location. A palace source disclosed that the gunmen destroyed the main door to the palace before gaining entrance into the main palace.
According to the source, the kidnappers knocked on the main entrance door repeatedly before deciding to shoot into the air and force the door open when the occupants refused to open it. He said the men went straight into the traditional ruler’s private room, dragged him out and took him away.
He said said the kidnappers had left before security operatives arrived at the scene.
The source said: “When they came, they surrounded the building and ordered the monarch and other occupants to open the door and surrender themselves.
“But when the occupants refused, they started shooting sporadically. They destroyed the main door and entered.
“They terrorised the Kabiyesi and his family members before dragging him out and taking him away.
“None of the family members has been contacted but we know the people were kidnappers.”
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Funmi Odunlami, confirmed the development but said detectives from the state command had been deployed to arrest the hoodlums.
She said: “It is true but the details of the incident are still not clear. However, men from the Divisional Police Headquarters at Oke-Agbe, headquarters of Akoko NorthWest Local Government Area of Ondo State, have been deployed in the town to launch investigation into the incident.”
She gave the assurance that the traditional ruler would be rescued from his abductors, saying the police are on their trail.