They came on motorcycles, in the quiet breeze of the early morning when many had left the comfort of their beds to congregate for the Subhi (early morning) prayer. It was 5:30am and the sounds of the assailants’ gunshots created panic; there was confusion and many ran in opposite directions, not certain where the bandits were coming from. They had targeted and descended first, on Marina village in Kerawa district of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Without mercy, they shot at men, women, children and the elderly.
“Those of us who used local charm and were impervious to their bullets paid a different price,” said a member of the vigilante group who escaped the attack. “They ran over some of our men with their motorcycles. Because their bullets failed, their machetes were used to cut, slice and hack our people down and others were set ablaze,” he narrated.
After almost four hours of massacre that extended to four additional villages, our correspondents learnt that the bandits had only retreated when air and ground reinforcements from security agencies began their onslaught on them. By noon, the dozens of bandits that ambushed the five neighbouring communities of Igabi and Giwa local government areas of the state had left a trail of bloodbath, ashes of the people they burnt and empty shells of vehicles and homes they ransacked and set ablaze.
Marina village recorded 13 casualties, Kerewa village recorded 23 while 15 others were from Zariyawa, Rago and Unguwan Musa. Ibrahim Aliyu, a member of the vigilante at Marina village said the bandits had hit Marina first and on noticing the smoke emanating from the village, youths from neighbouring Kerawa had rushed to render assistance but were equally ambushed by the bandits.
“They burnt six vehicles in Marina village, cars and motorcycles were burnt in Kerawa as well as hundreds of bags of grains were set ablaze. They looted our communities and took away some of the motorcycles,” he said.
In remote communities where vehicular accessibility is difficult and GSM network, almost impossible, it took hours for help to reach the people of the affected villages. However, Governor Nasiru El-Rufai had said the casualty figures would have been far more devastating if not for the intervention of security agents.
As at the last count, the ward Councillor of Kerawa, Dayyabu Kerawa, said 51 people had been killed, about 5000 bags of grains destroyed. He appealed to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to assist the people who are now taking refuge at Karaukarau and Iyatawa villages of Giwa LGA.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that about three victims are currently receiving treatment at Kauran Wali clinic and one other at ABU Teaching hospital, Shika in Zaria Local Government Area while eight others are at the Iyatawa Hospital in Giwa LGA.
Hajiya Rabi, two times lucky
Hajiya Rabi Bakali had survived an attack on her home town of Bakali in Giwa Local Government Area of the state on February 11, 2020. The attack however claimed seven of her grandchildren, her son and his two wives who were burnt in a house barricaded by the bandits.
The 50-year-old had after the attack relocated to live with her eldest son, Sani Bakali, at Iyatawa village in the same LGA and only last week, visited Kerawa for a wedding when she found herself caught up in another loop of banditry attack that almost claimed her life.
“After the early morning prayer, we heard some people saying Innalillahi wa Innailaihi rajiun (From Allah we come and to Him we shall return). They had noticed smoke coming from Marina village which is less than two kilometres from Kerawa village.” She said soon after, the vigilante groups in Kerawa began mobilising young men to assemble and head to Marina with the hope of assisting the people. However, Hajiya Rabi told our correspondent that not long after youths from Kerawa stormed out; a few of them ran back screaming for everyone to get out as the assailants were on their heels.
Rabi said: “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me again for the second time. We ran out of our home because from experience, we knew our chances of survival were better running out. If you stay in to hide, they will ransack the house and set it ablaze. They chased us on their motorcycles and I fell several times but I got up and kept running.”
Less than a kilometre away from the village, Rabi said the commotion was real, and it followed them into the forest. The sounds of the assailant’s motorcycles and gunshots rented the air and the 50-year-old said by divine intervention, she fell into a ditch. “While in the ditch, I laid motionless and quiet, only praying to Allah. I heard them stop by the edge and after sometime, they left.”
It was over three hours later that Hajiya Rabi said she crawled out of the ditch and with the help of a stranger who had also survived the attack, walked the rest of the way to Kerawa town where she is presently taking refuge.
Her eldest son, Sani Bakali, told Daily Trust Saturday that when the family learnt of the attack on Kerawa, they had feared the worst for their mother who only recently survived a similar attack in Bakali.
“Bandits are Boko Haram/ISWAP members living among the people”
A resident of Kerawa village told Daily Trust Saturday that their attackers were not ordinary bandits but terrorists whose allegiance was to Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). “If you look at the nature of the attack, you will know that they are not kidnappers and this is beyond banditry. They are Boko Haram members, they came on motorcycles in their hundreds and killed without mercy, they set ablaze food items and killed the owners without considering age or gender. Pregnant women, infants were all massacred,” he said.
His assessment of the situation was given credence by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu who on Wednesday confirmed insinuations that the bandits in the North West including Kaduna State were members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram and ISWAP.
After his meeting with top Police Commanders over the attacks, the IGP stressed the need not to relent but to device new strategies to eliminate the bandits from their hideouts.
“What happened should not have happened and we would never allow it to happen. I have been briefed about some of the things that happened that opened up channels for the bandits to attack those villages and we will plug and block those channels and they will never have the opportunity to do it again,” he said.
He said the police onslaught on the bandits in Kuduru forest in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area on February 5, and another operation in collaboration with the Air Force on the February 21, where the security agents uprooted some of the bandits, will be a constant strategy.
Soon after Sunday’s attack, allegations emerged that some bandits lived among the people in the villages and had attacked them because of insinuations that the people had become informants to security agencies. The Inspector General of Police had also said some of the bandits have houses in some of the attacked villages.
IG Adamu had said there were indications that the bandits had attacked the villages because they believed that some villagers were collaborating with security agents, adding that “so if that is their module, then we must come with strategies to stop that.”
A vigilante member in Kerawa also agrees with the IG and explained that collabrators among the people often divulge the identities of police informants to criminals whenever they regain their freedom from security agents. “Each time a criminal is arrested and handed over to security agents, when that criminal is later released, those hypocrites will tell him those behind his arrest,” he said.
Another resident of Marina said: “their camps are known and we have informed the police about them severally but no action was taken against them. Our major concern is that by the time they are done with the villages they will surely approach bigger towns unless something is done quickly.”
He however said though they knew the bandits lived nearby, they had never had any form of misunderstanding with them. “We mind our business by only protecting our community. They may have had problems with security agencies because the police try to protect the people which often puts them in conflict with the bandits who want to instil fear. When this happens, they attack the people,” he said.