The Monday night attack on a Kaduna-bound passenger train arriving from Abuja came after repeated warnings by the intelligence service about the movement of bandits with a mission to attack the train service and other facilities, Daily Trust can report.
The attack on the train, which had on board over 300 passengers was the most fatal attack on the train coming after three previous attempts on the service.
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At least nine corpses were recovered from the scene of the attack on Tuesday while over 20 others sustained injuries from gunshots and stampede. Many passengers were also abducted by the kidnappers.
Senior security officials confided in Daily Trust on Wednesday about the existence of many intelligence reports warning of a planned operation by the criminal groups with one senior official describing the incident as “totally avoidable”.
Aside from the failure of the security forces to halt the planned attack, Daily Trust authoritatively gathered that the Kaduna State Security Council and the leadership of the 1 Division Nigerian Army headquarters had also separately requested the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) to suspend the late-hour shuttle between the two cities, an advisory that was however ignored.
Managing Director of the NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria confirmed that the NRC was written to stop the evening train.
He said, “They wrote to us that they suspected that they wanted to attack the train but that was in December/January. But we looked at it and said if there is something like that, they should find a solution to it and stopping the train is not the solution.
“And we don’t run night train. The last train leaves in the evening. We believe if we stop the running of trains, it means the terrorists have won.”
The trains are often provided with security from the police through its Railway Command.
When contacted last night, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, told one of our correspondents that they were not aware of any security report.
“I’m not aware of any intelligence report. You know the railway station has its own command, I will find out and get back to you,” Adejobi said on the telephone.
In a February 17 intelligence report, one of the security services had alerted of the arrival of “over 80 well-armed bandits” from the camp of notorious Zamfara bandit, Bello Turji, into Buruku Forest in Chikun Local Government of Kaduna State and establishing presence around Falalin Dutse and Rafin Dawa Danne.
The gunmen were said to have arrived Kaduna on the invitation of a banditry kingpin called Kwalba, with the intention of attacking the Kaduna-Abuja train. The bandits also reportedly penciled down the Rigasa Train Station and the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) as possible targets.
In a separate intelligence report privately shared with security agencies in Kaduna on March 23, it was reported that bandits on over 300 motorcycles had left Danjibga area of Zamfara State on an undisclosed mission to Rijana Forest through Birnin Gwari. Another detachment was said to have left for Kebbi and Niger States around the same time.
A senior security source in Kaduna confirmed to Daily Trust receiving reports of movement of Turji’s men to Kaduna, saying however that the intelligence was not authenticated.
But a source said it was the men of Halilu Sububu, not Turji, who were in Kaduna around this time, with some of them already back in their enclaves in Zamfara State.
The Kaduna security source, who did not want his name in print, said the attack was carried out by Boko Haram elements in collaboration with bandits.
Two sources; a local with knowledge of bandits’ activities and a senior intelligence officer in Abuja confirmed that a Kaduna-based bandits leader, Boderi, was involved in hatching the attack.
Boderi is notorious for masterminding a number of atrocious attacks in Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Zaria Local Governments in Kaduna State, including the abduction of students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, in March last year and kidnapping of the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru in October of the same year.
While the civilian source said Boderi was responsible for the attack, the intelligence source said the banditry kingpin was only co-opted by terrorist groups who planned the attack.
“That was beyond bandits. It was a classic Boko Haram operation, you could see from how they used a command IED; an explosive that was detonated remotely on target,” the intelligence official said.
He said for a long time military and intelligence services have noted “A lot of movement of Boko Haram members into the forests in Kaduna around Kidandan, Rigachukun and on the way to Birnin Gwari where they chased out some bandits to take control”.
According to him, security agents have been on alert following reports from intercepted communication pointing to the possible attack but added that it was impossible to deploy troops permanently without specific knowledge of when the attackers will deploy.
“The early arrival of the troops on that day was because there was some level of alertness in view of the information at hand. It could have been worse”.
He said the many areas in Kaduna, especially around the location of the Monday attack are infested with regrouping Boko Haram elements, accusing residents of not providing helpful information to aid the work of security agents.
Abductors begin contact with families
Some family members of those abducted in the attack have confirmed being contacted by the abductors of their loved ones.
They however said that no ransom demand had been made but they were assured of the safety of their loved ones.
A brother to one of the victims of the incident identified as Ibrahim said the bandits reached out to the family on Tuesday to inform them that the young man is with them.
“They called us around 1pm on Tuesday and assured us that our relative is safe with them. They did not however demand any ransom but said that they would call back.”
He noted that even though the family is a bit relieved knowing where he is, they are however worried over the ransom demand that will be made.
Similarly, Daily Trust learnt that the family of the managing director of the Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Hassan, was contacted to confirm that he was in captivity.
Another relative of two of the kidnap victims, Malama Hadiza Gogo also confirmed that she had been contacted by the terrorists regarding the whereabouts of their relatives.
She said, “Though I was not allowed to speak with any of them, I was reassured that they are well.”
She also said that no ransom demand was made adding, “They asked us to be on standby for a ransom demand.”
Daily Trust also confirmed that the father of the driver of the train, Sani has also been contacted and told that his son is hale hearty. They did not however make any demand for ransom.
Mourning now an every day ordeal among Kaduna residents – CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State Chapter has said that the train attack further amplifies the vulnerability of Kaduna people and everyone who does business in the state.
The religious body while reacting to the attack in a statement by its State Chairman, Reverend John Joseph Hayab, explained that CAN and all well-meaning folks have cried that Kaduna residents and visitors across ethnic and religious divides live in fear everywhere following the dread bandits have demonstrated more audacity stronger than that of the government of the day.
“Sadly, mourning is now an everyday ordeal in Kaduna even though we have a sitting government with huge security votes disbursed monthly.
“Even though banditry is a heinous crime, the bandits have evolved an extended network for intelligence gathering and planning on how to fulfil their mission of terrorising innocent citizens. On the contrary, the resilience of the government and her intelligence gathering happens to be more about settling scores with perceived foes,” he said.
He then called on the federal government to deploy everything at its disposal to crush the bandits who have had a field day in Kaduna and elsewhere in Nigeria, bringing grieving for the kidnapped or killed to a complete stop.
He also appealed to the security agencies to employ innovative professional strategies for dealing with the situation and repudiate any political interference in security matters and called on the people of Kaduna State to continue to pray and do the needful for peace to reign.
Enough of talking, we need action, imams tell Buhari
The Council of Imams and Ulama, Kaduna State has said that they have had enough of the talking and demanded action from President Muhammadu Buhari over the bombing attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, which left nine dead, many injured and kidnapped.
The council also maintained that the government must be held responsible for every single soul that was lost in the attack.
In a statement issued on Wednesday by its Secretary General; Yusuf Yakubu Arrigasiyyu, the council said the continuous application of sporadic tactics in fighting the bandits will not yield any desirable result.
While sympathising with Nigerians over the tragedy, he urged the government to secure the villages and make the roads safe for citizens.
The statement reads in parts, “The council faults the Nigerian government strategy in fighting the bandits; we believed that the continuous application of sporadic tactics in fighting the bandits will not yield the desired results.
“The hideout of the bandits is well known to security agencies in Nigeria, yet the bandits operate without hindrance. Government’s lackadaisical attitude toward protecting the life of Nigeria is enough.
“The government must be held responsible for every single soul that is lost. The council urges the government to secure our villages and roads and ensure we are safe, enough of the talking, we need action Mr. President”.
By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja), Maryam Ahmadu-Suka, Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)