The sixty-three members of a volunteer security group popularly known as Yan-Sa-Kai who were reportedly killed by bandits at Anemi, a village under Zuru Emirate of Kebbi State, were on a mission to repel an attack by the bandits, findings by Daily Trust revealed.
Among those killed, it was gathered, were a father and his son who joined the mission.
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Remains of the victims who were killed in the wee hours of Monday have since been buried amid tears and condemnation.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday called on the security forces to be more proactive and redouble their efforts in order to frustrate the operational plans of the terrorists before they launch attacks.
Daily Trust reports that the ‘Yan Sakai is an armed ethnic militia in Zuru Emirate established as a vigilante group with the objective of curtailing the activities of bandits, abductors, and cattle rustlers in the emirate
It was gathered that the victims met their deaths following an unsuccessful joint operation to repel a planned attack by bandits which was being spearheaded by the military in collaboration with the Yan-Sa-kai.
“During the joint operation which lasted for about 40 minutes the military realized that the bandits had the upper hand and called for a tactical withdrawal,” said a local source familiar with the situation.
According to the source, the Yan-sa-kai however refused to heed the ‘tactical withdrawal’ order from the military and continued to chase the bandits who lured them into an area where they hid on top of trees and opened fire on their pursuers.
‘Informants leaked plan to bandits’
Local sources said suspected informants must have leaked information on the plan to repel a planned attack by the bandits hence they prepared and came in their large numbers.
The bandits, who were said to be coming from the neighbouring Niger State, reportedly laid ambush for the Yan-Sa-Kai as many of them hid on trees while others took cover in the bushes on either side of the roads.
One of the locals, who sought anonymity because of security reasons, said the bandits struck when the Yan-Sa-Kai were completely trapped in the middle and that gave them the opportunity to gun all of them down.
Among the victims were those from Magajiya and Danrangi villages of neighbouring Niger State.
It was also feared that the bandits may have kidnapped some villagers while going back to their base.
As of the time of filing this report, one of the locals, who only gave his name as Abba, told Daily Trust that the military had launched an attack on the bandits while an aerial bombardment was also ongoing from the side of Niger State.
The chairman of the vigilante in Zuru Emirate, Usman Sani, a retired Warrant Officer and the Kebbi State Police Command confirmed the incident when contacted on phone on Monday.
“A Large number of bandits killed over 63 members of a joint operation of our Yan Sa Kai members, in an ambush on Sunday night at Anemi, Sakaba Local Government of Kebbi State. They burnt 12 of our motorcycles.
“The number of the casualties we suffered may be more because we are still recovering bodies littered in the bush. We also killed the bandits but cannot ascertain the number because they normally evacuate their dead bodies and burn them somewhere,” Sani said.
The chairman said his men came round through Darangi-Rijau in neighbouring Niger State in an attempt to ambush the bandits at Anemi, adding: “Little did we know that they have been tipped off. So they laid an ambush, hid their motorcycles in the shrubs, circled us and opened fire from different directions.
Also, the Police spokesperson, Kebbi State Command, ASP Nafiu Abubakar, confirmed the incident when contacted but stated that the police were still compiling the casualty figure during the attack.
“We are yet to ascertain the total casualty figure from the ambush launched by the bandits against the Yan-Sa-Kai in Anemi. For now, we are still compiling,” he said.
He added that the delay in ascertaining the number of the dead was owing to the difficult terrain of the area saying they would make their findings known to the public as soon as they complete their investigation.
Buhari condemns killings, urges proactive action
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday called on security forces to be more proactive and redouble their efforts in order to frustrate the operational plans of the terrorists before they launch attacks.
Buhari expressed sadness over what he described as the brutal murder of tens of vigilante members in Kebbi State by bandits who ambushed them in the Sakaba/Wassagu Local Government Area.
“This egregious level of criminality is shocking and I want to assure Nigerians that I will do all it takes to tackle this monster decisively. My greatest preoccupation is the threat to life posed by these murderous gangs and remorseless outlaws who have no slightest regard for the sanctity of life,” Buhari said in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu.
By Aliyu Hammagam (Birnin Kebbi), Fidelis Mac-Leva & Muideen Olaniyi (Abuja)