Caught between heavily armed bandits who attack their communities at will, and turban wearing terrorists of Ansaru group, life has become unbearable for the people of Damari, a village in Kazage ward of Birnin Gwari Local Government Area in Kaduna State. Damari, a community less than 80 kilometres from Birnin Gwari town has in the last two years become a feasting ground for both bandits and terrorists as they struggle to claim the community. Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that past treaties between the people of the community and bandits had collapsed after the rampaging gunmen reneged on agreements to allow the people free access to their farms without fear of attacks and abduction. With no access to government and security operatives in the area, sources from Damari explained that residents had no option but to rely on the protection of members of the Ansaru group; a splinter of Boko Haram terrorist group headed by a leader known as Malam Abba.
- 2 killed as bandits, Ansaru terrorists clash in Kaduna
- Like Senate, reps ask Buhari to declare bandits terrorists
Under Ansaru’s protection, our correspondent gathered that some intermarriages had taken place between the terrorists and residents and a rule was constituted to forbid armed bandits from entering the community. “The rule was clear to everyone, the bandits were told that if they wanted to enter Damari, they were mandated to drop their weapons elsewhere, and many of them abided by this rule until recently when three bandits entered the community armed,” said Ibrahim Isa, who has fled Damari and is now living less than eight kilometres away, in Dogon Dawa community.
He said there was a misunderstanding between members of Ansaru and the three bandits who entered Damari, following which the bandits were killed and their motorcycles and guns were confiscated. “The situation worsened when the bandits regrouped and returned on a vengeance mission. There was a clash between them and both suffered losses. However, a top commander of Ansaru, known as Malam Musa was killed and this forced members of Ansaru to retreat from the area,” Isa said.
While some villagers told our correspondent that members of the group had retreat to bury and mourn their dead, others expressed fear that the terrorist group may have relocated permanently due to the heavy firepower of bandits. With the withdrawal of Ansaru, attacks on Damari became persistent, forcing hundreds to flee to neighbouring Dogon Dawa, Birnin Gwari town, Zaria and other neighbouring communities. Despite the mass exodus of people from the axis, Daily Trust reports that there has been no official comment from the Kaduna State Government and the state police command.
Speaking with our correspondent, Malam Jatau Dumbula, a resident of Damari who has moved to Zaria LGA with his family, said he had packed all his belongings from Damari and vowed never to return until normalcy is returned. Malam Dumbula confirmed that residents of Damari had enjoyed the protection of Ansaru group before the recent clash.
“We used to relate with them (Ansaru) freely, we prayed together in the Juma’at mosques with them, we engaged in business transactions and attended their religious sermons without any fear,” he said.
He however said there are fears that the terrorists who have now moved to the Kwasakwasa area and into Zamfara State may have reversed their treaty to protect them.
“Some members of Ansaru were accusing us of mistrust and failure to show concern after the killing of one of their commanders,” he said, adding that “some Ansaru members said we did not show remorse and we did not troop out to condole with them over their loss. This poses great danger to us and has made us vulnerable to unprecedented attacks by both Ansaru and bandits. This is the reason some of us fled the area.”
On his part, Ubale Sani, who is taking refuge in Dogon Dawa, said the persistent attack on Damari by bandits is viewed as a form of punishment for living peacefully with members of Ansaru. “The bandits see us as one and the same with the Ansaru and so, when they attack us, they raid our homes, pack our farm produce, kill and abduct at will,” he said.
He however said some of the villagers who fled have been forced to return to Damari in spite of the danger because they were being stigmatized in other communities. “About four vehicles, packed with women and children returned to Damari today (Thursday) from Dogon Dawa because the people do not have anywhere to stay and some of them are being shunned and accused of being Ansaru apologists,” he said.
Also commenting, a mother of four who was also displaced from Damari and is now in Zaria, said she had to run for her life, leaving behind all her belongings. She said her husband had made it possible for her and the children to escape while he stayed back in Damari. Speaking with our correspondent, she said though she had not married off any of her daughters to any Ansaru member, there were others who did so.
“Honestly, I am not aware of any such marriages in my village but I have heard stories of others giving their children out to Ansaru members in neighbouring villages. What I know is that we related well with them; we were free with them and they attended our activities like naming and wedding ceremonies. We regarded them as our saviours and protectors from bandits even though we continued to nurse fear of their presence around us,” she said.
Having trekked several kilometres to escape last week’s attack on Damari, an aged woman, fondly called Goggo Atu, said she suffered severe pains after the long walk to escape the attack. She stated that most of the women had to abandon their properties to flee but said many of the men who had earlier fled the community have now returned to pack their belongings.
“We learnt that some people had to return to Damari because they had nowhere to go,” she said.
On whether the people of Damari had paid levies to members of Ansaru before the clash, an Islamic cleric who asked not to be named said in the past, the Damari community had agreed to pay what the terrorists described as ‘Zakat’ (an obligatory religious alms) together with some proceeds from their farms in exchange for protection to members of the terrorist group. He however said no levy had been imposed on the community, adding that the zakat was a kind gesture to show appreciation to the group for securing their lives and property.