Seven communities in Bakori Local Government Area of Katsina State have been thrown into anguish after bandits ambushed vigilantes and residents.
Residents confirmed that they had buried 71 bodies as of Sunday and were still counting their loss as some known faces were yet to be seen as of the time our reporter visited some of the communities yesterday.
The affected communities are; Jargaba, Gidan Gago, Gidan Alhaji Audu Gari, Gidan Shirai, Gidan Baushe, Unguwar Gogai and Dicika in Bakori LGA.
The victims had mobilised to retrieve their animals rustled by the bandits when they were waylaid.
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The bloody clash that claimed yet to be ascertained number of people, however, took place at Gidan Gwanki and Gidan Damo communities of Kankara LGA of the state.
Both Kankara and Bakori are two of the local governments bedeviled by activities of the bandits who engage in cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, among other crimes.
One of the vigilante leaders from the groups, who participated in the clash but did not want his name published, said the casualty figure could be more as the attack affected different communities.
He, however, claimed that the number of casualties from the bandits’ side could be well over 100. A resident, who lost his brother simply identified as Abdullahi, said the agony they were going through was beyond description.
“I don’t have to tell you the kind of agony we are currently passing through. To lose a life is very sad and painful not to talk of tens or even close to 100 people. We have lost hope, we are left on our own, those who are responsible for protecting our lives and property have not done their work,” he said.
He added that his brother left behind wives and children that have become orphans, which he said would be another serious source of concern apart from the pain of his brother’s demise.
A woman who lost her son, Usman, also expressed her grief, saying that it was destined that her son would die on that day.
She said the late Usman, who was not more than 25 years of age, left behind his young wife and little children. Residents, however, expressed their determination and willingness to fight back and defend themselves whenever the bandits attempt to strike again.
They however lamented that their locally made weapons, with which they usually defend their communities had been confiscated by the police, to which they demanded assurance that they would be allowed to keep such local weapons to use in any eventuality.
How it happened – Witnesses
Some sources that were close to the scene of the clash told Daily Trust how it happened.
A security source in Kankara that pleaded anonymity said, “Frankly, I was one of those who evacuated the corpses. What I have witnessed so far is that 41 bodies were initially evacuated and later I heard that about 28 more, but I was not part of the last operation.
“It was a clash between some Fulani settlements and members of vigilante groups who mobilised from villages in Bakori LGA. We could not ascertain what caused the problem because the investigation is still ongoing.
“But from what we have gathered is that some bandits went to those areas and rustled some animals and residents of the communities mobilised and followed the footpath that led them to the main road, not close to those Fulani hamlets. But because they were notorious in the area, the vigilante decided to search their cattle and possibly impound some of them so that they will talk to those that rustled their own to return them, believing that they know the bandits.
“This was how the clash started and by the time we got the information, about 18 people were killed. When we got there, both sides had retreated and we thought the fight was over, not knowing that they all went back to regroup, mobilise more fighters and return. Unfortunately, it was late in the evening and our Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was faulty, so we could not go back.
“The following morning (on Friday), we got reinforcement from the military that came with APC, together we went to the scene and evacuated 20 corpses. The second time, the area commander of Funtua came with two APCs and we went and evacuated another 15 corpses and then six, making a total of 41 on Friday.
“Then on Saturday, the Chairman of Bakori Local Government came with the families of the victims. They hired a truck and by then our APC was repaired. They went round the scene and recovered more corpses, but since I was not part of that, I don’t know the exact figure, but some were saying 28 or thereabout,” the source said.
Daily Trust gathered that about a year ago, the vigilantes had carried out a reprisal on the Gidan Gamji community where they killed people and set their huts on fire, during which the Fulani asserted that they would never let that happen again.
“So, even this clash took place initially at Gidan Gwanki, about three kilometres away from the Fulani settlement. Then, when they retreated and came back, they met at Gidan Damo village and that is where the fight became worse and many were killed there,” a source privy to the locality told our reporter.
Another source however said 41 dead bodies were recovered on Friday and 32 more on Saturday, putting the casualty figure at 73.
“This, I am certain was the figure as of yesterday, which I have seen with my eyes, but I don’t know if it may rise because the Fulani side was telling our people that a lot of work will be done in evacuating the corpses and some locations have to be pointed by them,” he said.
27 women kidnapped
A source at Yargoje, Ashiru Sule, said after the first clash at Gidan Gwanki, both sides called for reinforcement with the Fulani calling for their people from the forest with more arms and ammunition, where the second clash took place at Gidan Damo.
“Those who came from the forest, on their way back, attacked a village, Dan Kumaji, kidnapped 27 women and rustled their animals, including cattle, goats and sheep. We learnt some of the animals later returned home but the women are still there in captivity,” the source said.
State government commiserates families
A state government delegation led by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Muntali Lawal, was in the affected communities to commiserate with the families of the victims and their community leaders over the incident.
Among the delegation were also the Katsina State Commissioner for Information, Abdulkarim Sirika; Special Assistant to the governor on Security Matters, Ahmed Ibrahim Katsina; police representatives and other government officials.
The delegation visited some of the affected villages and assured the families of the state government’s determination to conduct a thorough investigation on the matter with the view to averting future occurrences.
The team also promised to form a committee, drawing two representatives from each of the affected communities to fashion out how relief materials would be distributed to families of victims.
Buhari, Atiku condemn attack
President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the attack, describing it as “horrific”.
The president, in a statement by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, paid tribute to all those vigilantes and family members who had been martyred.
Buhari said the sacrifices of the “brave men” who were working to prevent and punish crime in their communities would not be forgotten.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families in this difficult period. May Allah repose the soul of the deceased,” the president prayed.
Similarly, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the attack. Atiku, in a statement yesterday by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, noted that “The confirmation of the incident by the Nigeria Police on Saturday was a foreboding moment.”
He said, “While terrorism is a serious problem affecting most countries of the world, the solution to the problem must differ among countries.
“Therefore, a multi-sectoral initiative that will evaluate how to decimate the capacity of these terrorists should be on the table. We must be ready to do all that it takes to put a stop to these attacks.”
Contacted, the police spokesman in Katsina, SP Gambo Isah, said the state command was yet to receive an update on the attack as of the time this report was filed.
By Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina), Muideen Olaniyi & Baba Martins (Abuja)
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