Gunmen in southeastern Nigeria attacked a convoy of police and expatriate workers in a botched kidnap attempt, killing five officers, police said on Wednesday.
Police exchanged fire early on Tuesday with the gang as they were escorting expatriate workers to their office at a bottling company in the city of Aba in Abia state.
“The kidnapping gang had laid an ambush,” said Abayomi Ladipo, acting police commander of the district. “The kidnappers opened fire on two cars and set them ablaze, burning to death five police men in one of the vehicles.”
No arrests have been made and no group has claimed responsibility.
Kidnappings and other violent crime have increased in recent weeks in the southeastern state. Most hostages are released unharmed after a ransom is paid.
The state government has blamed the spike in crime on suspected militants who have fled a military offensive in nearby Delta, one of the main states in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
The military in late May launched its biggest offensive against the rebels for years, bombarding their camps from the air and sea and sending three battalions of soldiers after them. Gang members have since retreated to neighbouring states.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the country’s most prominent militant group, has responded by bombing pipelines and oil facilities throughout the region, cutting the OPEC member’s output and pushing up global prices.