Many bandits’ leaders and their foot soldiers have been killed during raids in Zamfara State, multiple sources told the Daily Trust Monday.
They were reportedly killed by ground troops and through aerial reconnaissance since the blockage of communication and restriction of movement in the state.
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One of the sources, a military official said they were recording successes in the ongoing massive onslaught against notorious bandits in Zamfara and its environs.
He also said locals were cooperating with them in the onslaught against the bandits and criminals who had abducted many people and waiting to collect a ransom.
Asked whether the Super Tucano aircraft recently acquired are being used in the operations, the source said no.
“We are not using it in this operation. It is our alpha jets that we are using and the clearance is massive and successful.”
The source, who does not want to be named, said the operation was being carried out by the military and sister security agencies.
“It is an all-around operation involving the army, the air force and DSS. We are happy that locals are supporting us with useful information,” he said.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had last week mandated all telecommunication operators in the country to stop extending services to Zamfara and its environs, effective Friday, September 3, 2021.
This was barely six months after the federal government declared Zamfara State a ‘no-fly zone’ in a renewed effort to fight banditry and other forms of insecurity in the state.
Our correspondents report that Governors Bello Mohammed Matawalle (Zamfara), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger) had in separate directives around the same time called for restrictions of movement and some economic activities in frontline areas in their states.
Hundreds of people have been killed by bandits in the four states and their fortunes destroyed during raids.
Business activities including farming were also crippled, making life difficult for people amid poverty and deprivation.
The state governors had taken different measures to stem the tide, including publicly calling out the federal government. The recent restrictions of movement among other measures had been viewed as extreme in some quarters but the governors said it was a bitter pill that must be swallowed.
‘It’s about action, not noise making’
Though the federal government has not extended the communication ban to Katsina, Kaduna and Niger, a source close to the security and intelligence community said the operatives were directed to confront the bandits and speak less on what they were doing.
“The military, police and DSS have been directed to refrain from issuing statements on their operation so as to checkmate informants from alerting the bandits on what is going on,” he said.
“Despite what some people are saying, there is no going back on the bombardment. The priority is to kill the bandits’ leaders.
“It is a misnomer for anyone to say the bandits should be given amnesty…Contrary to the widely circulated opinion, findings revealed that most of them are born criminals and will never repent.
“If not how can you explain the rape of somebody’s wife by the criminals? How can you explain the wholesome raid of villages where innocent people are being killed? It is wrong for some people to be unnecessarily sympathetic to the bandits. The ban on movement and communication, though tough but is worth it,” the source said.
Bandits brainwashing us to protest – Locals
A local from Zamfara, Mahe Musa, who called one of our correspondents when he came to Funtua in Katsina State, Monday, said the bandits were brainwashing them to stage a protest against the decision taken by the Zamfara State government.
“The bandits have been boxed to a corner, they are not finding it easy,” he said.
“They no longer have access to supplies but because they have control over some communities, they are asking us to stage a protest so that the governments at the state and national levels would lift the restrictions imposed on movements, sale of petrol, cattle and movements in some areas.
“Traditional and religious leaders are sensitising people against any revolt, we would not listen to the bandits,” he said.
His colleague, Malam Aliyu corroborated saying some of the bandits were enticing the locals.
“They claimed they would stop attacking people once life comes back to normal. I don’t know what they meant by normal because they made life hell for people when they were moving freely,” he said.
Bandits forced to release captives
Governor Matawalle said on Monday that bandits are being forced to release people under their captivity because they cannot feed them after they were denied access to food, fuel and means of communication, disclosed on Monday.
Matawalle, who spoke to Deutsche Welle Radio, said people that have spent weeks or months in captivity have returned to their homes and armed criminals are abandoning their motorbikes after they ran out of fuel.
“The chief of Army Staff was in the state to assess the operations. Troops and the local vigilantes are currently beginning to reach out to the armed criminals in their hideouts inside forests,” the governor said.
According to him, “Aggressive military operation is ongoing. All their camps would be dismantled one by one and we are recording massive success.
“I am not going anywhere; I will remain in the state throughout these operations. I must share the pains of the disruption of the telecommunication services with the good people of the state.
“As you can see, checkpoints have been mounted after every five kilometres throughout the state so that no criminal would escape,” he said.
We’ll endure telcos service disruption – Residents
Some residents in Zamfara said they would endure the disruption of telecommunications services in the state no matter how long it would take if it would bring back lasting peace in the state.
“We must exercise patience and exhibit some semblance of perseverance. We have suffered a lot as a people. We wouldn’t complain about whatever measures put in place by the authorities to arrest the situation,” a resident who gave his name as Aminu Muhammed, said.
“Of course, we are suffering because you can’t communicate with anyone via the telephone. If you want to even greet your brother, you will have to go and look for him so that you meet face to face. It has increased the burden of our livelihood but is okay,” he said.
Another resident, Iliyasu Sani, said things that were made easy with the advent of mobile telecommunications were now difficult after the services were seized.
“We didn’t know that telecommunications have made things easy for us…Life is tough now because you are restricted,” he said.
“I had to travel to Funtua to collect some caps. I could have just asked someone to deliver the message through commercial drivers had the services not been disrupted.
“But, in as long as the measure would bring back peace to the state, we would have no problem with that. It is just temporary. It is a matter of life and death. We have been at the mercy of criminals for quite a long time,” he said.
A source in one of the telcos said the decision to shut down telecommunication services in Zamfara was meant to disrupt communication between the armed criminals and their local collaborators.
He said there were local collaborators of the armed criminals who informed them about whatever moves by the security operatives.
Another source said, “Several security operatives have been killed in an ambush by these criminals. The collaborators are the ones informing the criminals about the movement of security operatives, exposing them to possible ambush. It had happened several times before.
“But if the link between them is cut, security operatives can reach the criminals and dislodge them. The decision is painful but the residents have to bear with it. You can use a painful process to remove another pain,” he said.
40 bandits killed, logistics hideout bombed in Kaduna
Meanwhile, another military source has confirmed that an armed Recce mission by NAF helicopter gunships intercepted a large gathering of bandits dressed in black clothes with several rustled herds of cattle around Kawara Village in Giwa LGA of Kaduna State.
The source said, “On sighting the aircraft, the bandits ran and hide in between the cattle while navigating their movement. After clustering at a water crossing point, the bandits were struck in successive passes by the aircraft.
“Some casualties that were spotted to be struggling to scamper for safety were also successfully neutralised by the aircraft. A reverse trail back to their initial departure point revealed a possible logistics base which was also struck until it went into flames,” he said.
He said security operatives on the ground at Kawara later confirmed that over 40 bandits were killed while motorcycles and their food items were destroyed at the camps during the attack.