Blow-by-blow accounts of recent banditry in Zamfara state

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Zamfara state has been in the news for the wrong reasons inrecent times. SANUSI MUHAMMAD in this piece chronicles the killings that havetaken place in the state especially in 2019.

A few days ago, some parts of Zamfara state was again throwninto mourning following the massacre ofinnocent citizens by armedbandits, a simultaneous, barbaric and inhumane attacks in whichBlueprint had reported that no fewer than 113 innocent citizens were reportedlykilled in different locations with properties worth millions of naira destroyedand several persons inflicted withinjuries.

As a result of this, many residents of villages in Shinkafi,Anka and Tsafe, Gusau, Maradun and Maru local governments have left theirancestral homes and moved to some urban areas like local governmentheadquarters for their immediate safety.

Blueprint investigation shows that there was no officialprovision for internally displaced persons by either the state, localgovernment councils and federal government as some of the victims managed tohybernate in primary schools like those ii Anka, Maradun, Mada, Zurmi,Shinkafi, among others.

The accounts

In early February, reports indicated that the bandits sackedseveral villages in Tsafe local government area, a situation which forced over2,000 people, mainly women and their children, to leave their ancestral homesand take refuge in two local government councils of Katsina state namely,Kankara and Faskari local government councils, respectively.

However, on theFebruary 28 2019, the suspected gangs invaded Kwaren Shinkafi village andkilled 30 persons among the Zamfara state Civilian Joint Tasks Force (CJTF).

A resident of the area identified as Alhaji Bala AbubakarShinkafi in an interview with Blueprint said, after two days they discoveredadditional 33 bodies killed by the bandits inside forest which gave the totalof 63 persons killed in Kwaren Shinkafi village. The bandits intheir hundreds had ambushed the CivilianJoint Tasks Force operatives while escorting traders from Kware village toShinkafi on Thursday Market day of Shinkafi. He added that, Several traderswere injured during the attack as the bandits made away with property belongingto traders worth millions of naira. We have buried 63 dead bodies while thosewho sustained injuries have been taken to Shinkafi General Hospital for urgentmedical attention, he said.

He lamented that no security personnel has been deployed tothe area to restore peace as their lives were in serious danger as a result ofthe attack. He, therefore, appealed to the federal government to deploy moretroops to the state to combat armed banditry.

In the same vein, on February 4, at least, 13 peopleincluding the elder sister of Senator Kabir Garba Marafa of Zamfara CentralSenatorial District, in the person of Hajiya Ade Marafa was killed by thedreaded gang at Ruwan Bore village of Gusau local government area of the state.

A resident in the village identified as Sani Ahmed in aninterview with Blueprint stated that the bandits attacked the communitiesaround 9:00pm set many houses ablaze and killed 13 people on the spot.

The bandits killed the elder sister of Senator Marafaand kidnapped her husband, Alhaji Ibrahim, who is a district head of Ruwan Borevillage and attacked communities of Tudun Wadan Maijatau and Takoka villagesunder Ruwan Bore District

Another gangs of armed bandits launched fresh attack onKawaye village in Anka local government area of Zamfara state early this monthand killed 13 people, abducted the district head, his wife and 58 others. Aresident, identified as Muhammad Aliyu Lawali in an interview with Blueprint onphone a day after the attack said the situationforced Governor Abdulaziz Yari to pay an assessment visit to Kawaye andsee the level of damage done to the communities by the bandits in which overtwelve vehicles, several number of motorcycles, shops and houses were setablaze.

The Emir of Anka andchairman, Council of Chiefs in Zamfara state during governors visit toKawaye Village under his emirate told reporters that over 20 communities weresacked by the bandits. He called on thegovernment to re-deploy more troops with adequate modern firearms to thearea to end the menace.

Earlier on January 28, a suspected group of armed banditsstormed Zurmi town, the headquarters of Zurmi local government area andkidnapped 26 persons.

An eye witness identified as Falalu Ashafa told Blueprint inan interview a day after the incident that the bandits in their hundredsstormed Majema village at around 11 : 00 pm and opened fire sporadically toscare the people away.

Ashafa further said the bandits embarked on house to house search and took away their victims.

According to him, his mother, wife and two of his youngerbrothers were among those abducted.

As I am talking to you now, we discovered that the banditskidnapped 26 people which included men and women in our town during the attackand the bandits shot one Sidi Abdulsalam on his hand and kidnapped his twowives and two daughters on the spot.

More so, a day after Zurmi attack, seven men have beenreportedly kidnapped after unknown gunmen struck at a sport viewing centre inBirnin Magaji town, the headquarters of Birnin Magaji local government.

Confirming the incidence, the proprietor of the viewingcentre, Sanusi Iliyasu Ishie, said the abductors, numbering about 20, invadedthe centre, which is located in the outskirts of Birnin Magaji town around10:00 p.m.

According to him, they parked some distance away from thecentre and demanded the whereabouts of the operator.

I and the people around answered them in affirmativebecause we mistook them for security operatives, Sanusi said.

He said the gunmen held him hostage and broke into theviewing centre and began to pick people indiscriminately and when the footballviewers realised that they were under siege, they started scampering out of thecentre, screaming for help in panic. At the end, they picked six of theviewers who tried to escape and demanded N100 million before they could releasethe victims.

Gov Yari had called for emergency rule

Governor Yari had supported the federal governments plan todeclare a state of emergency in the state following the prevalence of banditrythat have claimed many lives and displaced thousands in recent times.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued to newsmen and madeavailable to Blueprint in Gusau signed by acting spokesperson of the military,Major Clement Abiade, it said the troops of Operation Sharan Daji in Zamfarahas achieved tremendous successes leading to the recovery of weaponsammunitions and rustled cattle.

According to him, the troops also had several encounterswith bandits during the period in focus and neutralised 55 bandits. A total of 24 suspected bandits informants,rustlers, kidnappers and logistics suppliers were arrested during the period infocus. The suspects, he said, have been handed over to the Police forinvestigation and possible prosecution. Similarly, the air component ofoperation SHARAN DAJI carried out several air strikes around Kagara, Gando,Fankama, Fete and Dumburum forests. Subsequent operations in the forests led tothe rescue of 760 abductees. The abductees consisted of men, women and childrenfrom communities in the state.

Troops of Operation SHARAN DAJI recovered 4 AK47 rifles, 1rocket propelled gun tube, 12 dane guns, 27 AK47 magazines, 168 rounds of 7.62mm(special) ammunitions, 1 pump action gun, 47 motorcycles, a golf wagon car, 61 rustled cattle, 3 pounds ofmarijuana, nicotine and tramadol during the period under review.

He said the troops sustained operation led to the return ofover 1,000 IDPs from Maru to Bini village on February 17 2019. The Emir ofMaru, Alhaji Abubakar Chika Banagan and the chairman Maru LGA, Alhaji SalisuIsah Dangulbi, were present at the council headquarters venue. Unfortunately,these feats were not achieved without supreme sacrifice being paid. Oneofficer, 2 soldiers and members of vigilantes paid the supreme prize during theencounter with bandits in Kagara forest.

The last one week has been a very traumatic one forthe people of Zamfara especially in Shinkafi, Anka and Zurmi where banditscarried out coordinated attacks that led to death of civilians. The Forcecommander commiserates with the families of the fallen heroes and all those wholost their lives. It is also our prayer that their sacrifices and quest forpeace in Zamfara state will not be in vain. The Force commander and men ofOperation SHARAN DAJI remain resolute to the mandate of tackling the menace ofarmed banditry in the state. You are please requested to disseminate thisinformation through your medium, Abiade said.

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