Police at Walewale in the North East Region have stormed several communities along the Walewale-Bolgatanga highway following a robbery attack on Saturday.
The operation led by the Regional Commander was carried out on Sunday in response to the attack on a number of passengers travelling who were said to be travelling from Walewale to Bolga.
The attack was said to have occurred at about 4:00 pm, between Walewale and Wulugu, where three masked men reportedly emerged from the bushes and seized two vehicles carrying the passengers from Walewale, Bolga and Tamale.
Several travellers onboard the vehicles were robbed of their belongings, including a young man, who said the robbers took ¢4000 from him.
The robbers, however, fled back into the bushes when they saw a military truck approaching.
Some of the victims speaking to JoyNews said the robbery occurred near two police checkpoints, but police officers who were manning one of the checkpoints failed to respond, claiming they had no bulletproof vest to pursue the robbers.
The stretch of the Tamale Bolga highway (N10) near Walewale and Wulugu is a known robbery hotbed.
The stretch was gridlocked after the three hooded men held scores of travellers hostage in a daylight robbery operation that reportedly lasted close to 30-minutes.
The gunmen were said to have targeted a vehicle from Bolga from Walewale but decided to rob other passengers who had run into the operations.
One of the victims, a businessman, who was on his way to Walewale to purchase building materials, had to return empty-handed as his money was taken from him.
His name is Felix Azoaba Atanka, and he narrated what he saw and experienced.
“We were coming from Bolga to Walewale, so when we got to just by the curve after the first police barrier, the robbers came out from the bush”, Atanka narrated.
“They gave a warning shots”, he continued. “We stopped and raised our hands and dropped down, and they let us lie on the floor and operate us. Me personally, I was going to Walewale to my building materials to go back and sell. They took ¢4,000 from me”.
The robbers also took many personal valuables, including mobile phones, from the travellers, leaving them stranded on the busy highway.
“All my monies have been taken away,” a driver of one of the vehicles lamented.
One victim, a pastor, also said he lost his mobile phone and other belongings. The incident also left some of the passengers, especially the women, terrified.
“Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ!” one woman repeatedly shouted as the robbers were fleeing the scene.
But there was also outrage after the incident and when the police finally arrived. The passengers were angry that the police failed to respond timely, although the attack occurred near two police checkpoints.
“It is not fair”, one man on a motorbike retorted. “For than 15mins and no officer could arrive”.
The passengers claimed police officers at one of the checkpoints told them they had no bulletproof vest and were waiting for their colleagues from the Anti Terrorist Unit to arrive from Walewale.
However, the police have denied this claim.
Acting regional Police Public Relations Officer Robert Anabiik, who was part of Sunday’s operation, said the claim is untrue.
“Today, the Regional Commander, DCOP Mr Ali Moses, together with the operational team and the Walewale District command, we went on a manhunt for these armed robbers, ASP Robert said.
“We search all settlement that we feel they may be hiding”, he continued. “You can see how dirty we are; it is the operation that we went that we became dirty this manner. We had some people, especially those at the Fulani settlements, we search, but we didn’t find anything incriminating them. So we are going back to restrategize so that we can arrest armed robbers that are operating on this road”.
Robbery attacks are common in the Walewale enclave, where, unfortunately, the police there are heavily challenged, lacking both logistics and personnel.
The situation is compounded by bad roads and meddling by traditional authorities in robbery cases.