Early morning airstrikes by personnel of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Saturday morning claimed the lives of two kingpins and about a dozen other bandits operating around Birnin Magaji Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that a notorious bandit, Alhaji Auta, was killed when a military jet dropped a bomb on him as he was being conveyed on a motorcycle from his camp to the location of his herds of cattle, early in the morning.
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The sustained attacks also claimed the lives of many of his gang around his camp and adjoining areas.
The raid on Auta’s camp is a second major victory recorded by the air force within the space of a month, after the raid that killed the twin kingpins, Tawaye, in Dumburum in the first week of December.
Multiple sources confirmed Auta’s death yesterday, though there was no official report on the operation.
A resident of the area who doesn’t want to be mentioned said the bomb that killed the bandit was dropped on him while riding along Nasarawa Mailayi-Gusami Road.
While Auta’s death was corroborated by the sources who spoke to our reporter, the account of what followed after the first airstrike that killed him differed.
A resident of Birnin Magaji, who gave his name as Jamilu, said 12 of Auta’s men were eliminated when they rushed to the scene to pick his body.
But two sources however gave the casualty in the second attack as seven, who, they said, were killed after Auta’s funeral.
Aliyu Birnin Magaji, another resident, said the jet returned to the area three times, after killing Auta, including around 9:30pm last night.
“Mourners who had gathered after he was killed were bombed and seven of them were killed. After the jet left, their friends came back to move the bodies but the jet returned and bombed them. Right now no one knows how many were killed as no one is willing to go there,” he said.
Aside Auta, another arrowhead in his group, Kachalla Ruga, was also reported dead.
Auta is among the four arrowheads of the gunmen terrorising the Birnin Magaji area, others being Alhaji Shingi, Alhaji Nashama and Shehu Bagewaye.
Commenting on the operation, a researcher who recently interviewed Auta, James Barnett, described Auta as a “deadly bandit” as he called for a concerted effort on all fronts to consolidate the aftermath.
“He was also a de facto powerbroker in Birnin Magaji. He kept that area from being overrun by other gangs like that of Turji and he had historically been one of the key negotiators in previous amnesty deals in Zamfara State.
“Federal and state governments need to be prepared for handling any fallout of his death, including bandits staging reprisals against local communities, Auta’s gang fracturing, or bandits who had been in amnesty talks withdrawing from these talks. Coordination between state and federal governments and all security agencies is needed to ensure that kinetic and non-kinetic actions are in sync and complement each other,” he said.