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Kaduna train: How ransom blockade triggered hostage beating video

By Lami Sadiq, Mohammed I.Yaba (Kaduna), Muideen Olaniyi & Idowu Isamotu (Abuja),   The video released at the weekend showing terrorists beating up helpless passengers…

By Lami Sadiq, Mohammed I.Yaba (Kaduna), Muideen Olaniyi & Idowu Isamotu (Abuja),

 

The video released at the weekend showing terrorists beating up helpless passengers abducted from the Abuja-Kaduna AK9 train service on March 28, 2022, was triggered by anger over the blockade of a ransom in exchange for some of the captives, Daily Trust has learnt. 

Daily Trust reports that since the attack, four months ago, which led to the killing of about nine passengers and abduction of 60 people, at least 20 of the victims have been released in batches after they each paid a ransom of N100m while over 40 victims remain in captivity. 

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It was learnt that renewed negotiation to release another batch of the victims was truncated after security officials turned away ransom bearers from delivering the agreed amount. 

The development was said to have angered the terrorists who beat up victims in the new 11-minute video released late on Saturday and threatened to kill them. 

The terrorists also threatened to kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, senators and other political leaders in the country. 

One of them, who spoke in the video, accused the government of lying about a negotiation committee and plotting to forcefully free the captives. 

A victim filmed in the video clip, Mukhtar Shuaibu, confirmed the terrorists’ disenchantment over the blockade of the ransom. 

 “We don’t know what offence we have committed to the government of this country. We were born in this country. We have been here for 120 days, yet the government has been unable to rescue us. What is our offence to this country? Some of us were to be released recently but security agents blocked the access and refused to let our relatives come for us,” he said. 

Speaking with one of our correspondents, a source whose younger brother is in captivity said as promised earlier, the terrorists had begun negotiating directly with relatives and had agreed to release some of the captives, especially one of them who is said to be ill. 

 

“Some of the relatives had approached the meeting point when they came in contact with some soldiers who blocked access to the forests and even threatened to arrest them,” he said.  

He further stated that the soldiers had warned that payment of ransom was illegal and threatened to arrest them. “This is what triggered the latest video by the terrorists, this is why they flogged them to send a message and also threatened to abduct top government officials,” he said.  

Another relative whose brother is equally in captivity said: “It has been 120 days of pain and trauma without any assistance from the government. The government has decided not to rescue our loved ones and now they are sabotaging our efforts to rescue them, what do they want us to do? 

“They had asked us to be ready to pay even though they were not specific on how much we were to pay. However, many people have sold their homes, their farms and property in readiness; we were equally prepared to risk our lives to enter the forests to get our loved ones out before the government pulled this stunt. Now the government has triggered them and we are back to square one,” he said. 

Terrorists threaten to Buhari, Osibanjo, others 

In the video, the terrorists threatened to abduct key government officials, like they abducted the train passengers.

The threat is coming a few weeks after the convoy of the president’s advance team was attacked on its way to his home town in Daura, Katsina State. 

The attack on the president’s convoy had happened on the day terrorists claiming to be members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), invaded Kuje Prison in the FCT and let loose over 800 inmates, including Boko Haram suspects. 

One of the speakers in the video said:  “Just as you have seen these people here, by God’s grace, you will see your leaders; your senators and governors will come before us…By God’s grace, El-Rufai, Buhari, we will bring you here”.

A second terrorist who addressed Buhari directly in the video warned that the president and his Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo should know that they cannot stop them, even with help from the international community.

Pointing at the victims in captivity, he stressed: “These are not the only people we hope to bring here, you should know that you, Buhari, and the one they call El-Rufai and your senators and the vice president himself, your state legislators and even councillors will come before us disgraced, so get ready because you cannot fight God.”    

Wearing a combination of military and police camouflage, one of the terrorists who escaped from Kuje Prison and draped in machine gun bullet chain described the victims as ‘trash’, which he said could have been exchanged for his freedom. He also threatened to abduct and kill President Buhari.   

Victims urge international community to intervene

Some of the victims who spoke in the video called on the international community to step in as the government of Nigeria cannot rescue them. They specifically called on the United States of America, Britain, Franca, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations to come to their rescue. 

A staff of the Nigeria Railway Cooperation (NRC), Sani Abdullahi, who was behind the wheel of the train during the attack said the terrorists had treated them with sympathy until they were provoked by the government. 

“The government of this country has failed. These people gave their demands that the government could have easily obeyed. These people never harmed us and have made attempts to release some of us but the same government has scuttled that chance,” he said. 

Security, defense forces not clueless, helpless – Presidency 

The Presidency Sunday said the nation’s security and defense forces were not “clueless or helpless” but were pursuing their targets in line with their strategic plans despite the propaganda of the terrorists. 

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, reassured the public that the President had done all, and even more than what was expected of him as Commander-in-Chief by way of morale, material and equipment support to the military and expected nothing short of good results in the immediate.

The statement titled ‘Latest Version of Terror Propaganda and Military Readiness’ read: “Terrorist activity using propaganda and the use of violence to force governments to accept or submit to political demands is not new all over world.

“The country’s security and defense forces are not clueless or helpless. They have their plans and ways of doing things which they will not display in the media.

“The dilemmas in dealing with the specific case of train terrorists are manifold: punitive action like the popular call for carpet bombing of the known locations may assuage the desire of an angry public for revenge, but what about the hostages? They have committed no offense. All they did was to board a train.

“It suffices to say that the security forces are not relenting. They are acutely aware of their duties, responsibilities and what the nation expects of them. Whenever they embark upon those actions, they expect that the public should provide them with the needed support.

“Terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought by all actors- the military, the civilian population and the communication service providers. This is the only way safe havens of terrorists are eliminated in every part of the world.

“To help the nation against ongoing situation, the media must increase their support for the fight against the exploitation of the internet and social media for terrorist purposes.”

FG’s attitude boosting their confidence – Intelligence experts

However, speaking on the threat in separate telephone interviews with one of our correspondents, two security and intelligence experts, Dr Kabiru Adamu and Prof. Oyesoji Aremu, submitted that the federal government’s attitude was boosting the terrorists’ confidence. 

The duo maintained that their boosting morale to the extent of threatening to abduct the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was based on their recent successful attacks on the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna; the Abuja-Kaduna train; Kaduna airport, the president’s convoy and Kuje Prison. 

Adamu, who is the Managing Director of Beacon Security Consulting, explained that whatever support the Nigerian government had been getting previously in the fight against terrorism would have been reduced as a result of the video.

“There is something we call psychological operation that is when you are in a state of conflict, you and your adversaries would be engaged in both physical and psychological warfare”. 

 He said in such warfare, propaganda is used as a psychological weapon, stressing that what the terrorists are playing at the moment was working against Nigeria. “Their confidence is at an all-time high,” he said. 

‘’They have carried out a successful attack on a train and they abducted over 60 persons, then they attacked Kuje Prison and they also freed hundreds of persons including their proud members. So, their confidence is extremely high and they are riding on that confidence when they make such a statement knowing that they had been successful in the past, and frankly, we have not done anything to dent that confidence. Our psychological op is zero!” 

The intelligence expert said the Nigerian government had failed to use intelligence and physical warfare to dent that confidence adding, “When they make such statements, they are just riding on this high level of successes they’ve achieved.” 

He stated: ‘’It will boost the confidence and the fighting powers of their members. Lastly, it is also playing on the support level that Nigerians give to the government. Anybody who saw that video where they made the statement, your heart would beat and ask yourself what the Nigerian government has been doing?” 

On his part, Oyesoji, a professor of Criminology at the University of Ibadan, said it is not surprising that terrorists could come out with such a threat after successfully attacking different “well-established security organisations”. 

He said ‘’The implication is that, if these people could do that by attacking those places, then what remains is the seat of government – either in Abuja or at the state level. This means they are daring. They care less about what will happen.” 

 

Way forward 

Proffering solutions, Adamu said it was high time the government expose the sponsors of terrorism, adding that the military should engage more in intelligence gathering and deploy tactical warfare against them. 

He stated: ‘’The federal government should use intelligence to ensure that they know everything about those persons, who is funding them and their family members. 

‘’Once they know, they should use tactical warfare to carry out incision and precision operations that will lead to the rescue or elimination of any person involved in all of this – more importantly, the rescue of their captives. Intelligence is key, and tactical precision operation is also key.’’ 

Why I opted out of negotiation – Mamu 

The unofficial intermediary between the abductors and the federal government, Malam Tukur Mamu, has said threats and attempts to blackmail him had forced him to opt out from further negotiations. 

Mamu, the publisher of Desert Herald Magazine, whose intervention facilitated the release of some of the victims, said the matter had become delicate as some top government officials had viewed his goodwill as an attempt to expose the government’s weaknesses. 

“It is a situation where as an individual, you present yourselves to contribute your own quota towards addressing an issue, with little or no support from government and you are now being threatened,” he said. 

“Instead of collaborating with me to see that we work together to bring an end to the issue, some of them are even saying that I am exposing their incapacity, which is not the case. So, the threat is glaring and attempts to blackmail me are glaring. The lack of interest by the federal government to support those who have willingly given their lives to see this end is what made me to reconsider my position,” he said. 

He said before the Kuje Prison break, the terrorists had given a list of over 50 men, which they pencilled down for exchange but through negotiations, he had succeeded in narrowing down the list to about 10 names. 

“The names were presented to me and I presented them to the federal government, but there was no result until they became provoked and stated categorically ‎that they have the capacity to release their comrades wherever in the country.” 

Mamu said the government made a catastrophic mistake when it failed to check the infiltration of terrorists from the North East into the North West, adding that “Now they are very much on ground in the North West and unfortunately, they are now working with bandits.” 

He however said even after he disengaged as an intermediary, the terrorists have continued to send messages to him insisting they will only negotiate with him, not any government official.

He however said it was clear that the terrorists have the tendency to molest and even kill if they become provoked adding that the solution lies in the government’s ability to take the painful decision not to only rescue the victims but to find a peaceful way of managing the terrorists. 

Video sign of state failure, negative verdict on FG  – Northern group

In a reaction, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) said the video and threats in them “exposed the glaring failure on the part of our government to check growing national threats”.

Spokesman of the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said “With the current dominant presence of warlords, paramilitary groups, corrupt policing, armed gangs, terrorism, and a messed up security apparatus of the country, the very existence of the state has been rendered dubious, and the Nigerian state is by all indicators appearing like a failed state”.

He said; “The audacious violence shown in the video released by the terrorists and the open threats to abduct the President and sitting governor proves the extent to which the country has lost out to the bandits.

 “In the face of the latest development, Nigerians would be right to resort to self-protection because obviously the bandits and insurgents have sensed a huge vacuum in the capacity and political will to challenge them.

“Whether anybody wants to admit it or not, the current administration has failed in the vital area of providing security of life and property to its citizens,” he added.   

The CNG spokesman further explained that with the daring video, “all the signs of imminent failure or perhaps complete failure of state have manifested in Nigeria as its government has failed to maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders”.