The attack is the latest episode of violence before Nigeria’s February 25 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Gunmen in central Nigeria have killed eight people, including a divisional police chief, in the latest acts of violence ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on February 25, police and a security source said on Wednesday.

Insecurity is a big problem for voters in a country where armed gangs terrorize people in towns and on highways and carry out kidnappings for ransom, especially in the north.

Benue state police responded to a distress call after gunmen blocked the Markurdi-Naka highway, forcing travelers to flee, state police spokeswoman Catherine Sewuese Anene said.

Naka City Division Police Officer Mamud Abubakar led a team of officers that engaged the armed gang in a shootout, Anene said in a statement.

“However, the DPO (division police officer) leading the team suffered gunshot wounds and was rushed to Naka General Hospital, where he was finally confirmed dead,” he said.

A police source said two other policemen were shot dead during the fight with the armed gang.

As the gunmen withdrew, they killed two children and three women in a nearby town, said the source, who declined to be named because she is not authorized to speak to the media.