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SWAT Commander describes Ayawaso violence as unfortunate

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Samuel Kojo Azugu, Commander, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team of the National Security, has described the January 31, violence at Ayawaso West Wuogon as an unfortunate event.

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He said the SWAT Team was deployed to the constituency to search for an alleged stockpile of weapons in a certain house with possible retrieval but the mission failed due to certain developments.

DSP Azugu testifying on Monday before the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission of Inquiry, however, admitted that, his men failed to act professionally in handling the situation and so they had to abort the operation.

The Commission, under the chairmanship of Mr Francis Emile Short, a former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), was set up by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to conduct a far-reaching investigation, which would sustain the peace of the nation.

DSP Azugu explained to the Commission that while they were on their confidence building patrol, and they got to La-Bawlesheshie, they heard gunshots from a compound house; and so he directed his men there, while they packed their vehicles at the Presbyterian Primary School, which was about 100 metres away.

DSP Azugu said the number of gunshots, which came from the compound house was between 20 to 30 shots.

He said in their efforts to search the said house, some men pelted his men with stones; noting that, he ordered his men to give six warning shots.

The SWAT Commander said the warning shots from his men did not hurt anyone.

According to DSP Azugu his team managed to arrest nine of the people, and in the process, a minimum force was applied on those who were trying to resist arrest, and subsequently, they were taken to the East Legon Police Station.

However, Mr Eric Osei-Mensah, Counsel of the Commission put it to DSP Azugu that records at the East Legon Police Station shows that he rather brought seven men; but DSP Azugu maintained that he brought in nine people.

Answering questions on how the SWAT team was attired, DSP Azugu said the team was made up of 60 men, consisting of 25 police officers and 35 civilian operatives, and they wore brown khaki pair of trousers, black t-shirts, brown vest and masks.

Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, a member of the Commission questioned DSP Azugu as to why his men wore masks in their operation, DSP Azugu said he would not be able to explain why.

Mr Patrick Kwateng Acheampong, a member of the Commission in his cross-examination suggested to DSP Azugu that the SWAT operation was not properly planned and executed, which the witness answered in the affirmative.

“The operation was spontaneous and this is how the service has been operating for some time now. There is the need to revert to the correct standard of operation as well as address the lapses in coordination “.

Chief Superintendent Isaac Asante, Airport Divisional Police Commander, in his testimony before the Commission said despite the fact that he was not part of the Elections Task Force for the bye-election, he was at post to give support to the exercise.

Mr Murtala Muhammed, the National Secretary of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) said his Party, which took part in the bye-election does not believe in having party agents; and that, it was the duty of the Electoral Commission to see to the conduct of the election.

He lauded President Akufo-Addo for setting up the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission to probe the violence that occurred during the bye-election, adding that, the outcome when implemented would deter security forces from allowing themselves to be manipulated by politicians.

The commission has adjourned sitting to Tuesday, February 19.

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