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Panic grips Zamfara communities over resurgence of attacks

In the past one week, more than 16 people were killed in separate attacks in some villages in Gusau, Maru and Bungudu Local Government Area.…

In the past one week, more than 16 people were killed in separate attacks in some villages in Gusau, Maru and Bungudu Local Government Area.

The authorities in the state had considered the attacks as clashes between local vigilantes known as Yan Sakai and armed bandits.

For instance, suspected armed bandits Thursday night killed at least eight Yan Sakai members in Wanke district of Gusau Local Government Area. However, the police gave the number of victims as four.

Residents said the gunmen invaded Gobirawa village and carted away about 11 herds of cattle and other domestic animals after chasing people out of their homes. The armed men killed a prominent vigilante leader called Bala Maigora.

Some vigilante members from neighbouring communities mobilized to go to Gobirawa community to offer help, but unknown to them the armed men had already laid ambush.

However, the spokesman of the state police command SP Muhammad Shehu said it was a clash between the local vigilante groups known as Yan Sakai and the armed bandits that resulted in the death of eight people.

He said the vigilantes had earlier planned to attack the armed bandits and were confronted by the armed men on their way to execute their operations.

A meeting involving the Yan Sakai was summoned last Monday to look into the matter that is threatening to escalate. Stakeholders who attended the meeting include CP Usman Nagogo and the state commissioner of Security and Home Affairs Alhaji Abubakar Dauran.

In a related development, suspected gunmen opened fire on a football viewing centre in Maigoge village situated 7km north of Dansadau town of Maru Local Government Area of the state.

Residents said the armed men arrived at the viewing centre firing at the people. There was a stampede as everyone tried to run out at the same time, and in the process one person was hit by a bullet.

Last Tuesday, some unidentified gunmen invaded Magamar Danbatta village via Yar’galadima in Dansadau district and shot two persons deadwhile two others sustained injuries.  The injured ones are responding to treatment at a medical facility.

Still in Dansadau district, last Wednesday, the armed bandits raided the popular Mutunji market and seized dozens of motorbikes and other commodities belonging to traders who do business in the market.

A resident, Alhaji Yusuf Ibrahim, said “As the gunmen fired shots into the air, the traders and shop owners scampered for safety. The armed men looted some shops and made away with many cartons of soft drinks.

“For some time, traders had ceased to attend Mutunji market owing to series of deadly attacks on the market by armed men in the past. However, shortly after a peace deal was struck by the authorities and the armed men in the state, activities begun to pick up once again,” Alhaji Ibrahim said.

Residents told Daily Trust on Sunday that the Wednesday’s attack on Mutunji market had instilled fear in the local traders. “The traders nowleave the local markets in the district as early as 1pm to avoid possible attack, abduction or armed robbery.”

A trader identified as Alhaji Isah Usman said he stopped attending rural marketswith the escalation of cattle rustling and abductions. His hope was however rekindled after the peace pact.

Daily Trust gatheredthat suspected armed bandits invaded Unguwar Noma village in Gummi Local Government Area and abducted at least 12 people.

Residents said the gunmen arrived on motorbikes, firing shots into the air and then started moving from one house to another picking people. Shortly afterwards, they rode their motorbikes with the abducted people and disappeared into Gayari forest.

In the same vein, two councillors are still in captivity after they were abducted by suspected kidnappers along Gusau – Gummi Road. The councillors from Gummi local government were on their way to attend a meeting in Gusau when their vehicle was intercepted by the abductors.

The armed men demanded for N40m ransom before they would release the victims. A source in the local government told Daily Trust that effort was being made to secure their release but he did not mull giving the kidnappers the ransom they demanded.

Still within the week,at least ten cows were rustled in Unguwar Malamai village near Saminaka village in Gusau Local Government Area and two persons robbed, though no life was lost in the attack.

Earlier, the state police command had confirmed the killing of a villagehead and one other person following attack by suspected armed bandits on Kujemi village in Dansadau emirate of Maru Local Government Area.

The spokesman of the command SP Muhammad Shehu said some suspected armed bandits in large number invaded the village and killed one Malam Gambo of Karauchi village and Mustapha Halilu of Dansadau district.

In the past seven months, tension has heightened in Gwalli district in Gummi Local Government Area following renewed attacks on some communities in the district.

The latest of these attacks in the district was in Babban Rafi village in January. The attack occurred near Barikin Daji area leaving at least 14 people dead. Gwalli district has witnessed two major attacks from November last year to date.

In November last year, more than 20 people were killed in an attack on Karaye community in the district after motorbike riding gang of armed men stormed the community firing at residents.

The attacks were coming on the heels of the peace pact struck by the state government, armed bandits and local vigilantes other wise known as Yan Sakai. The peace deal saw significant reduction in massive attacks on the state’s rural communities.

Since then, there have been no reported mass killings in villages in all parts of the state except Gwalli district where about40 people were killed in attacks on two villages in November 2019 and January 2020.

The resurfacing of some of the kidnapping and cattle rustling incidents, observers said, might not be unconnected to how some of the repentant bandits refused to surrender their weapons despite the peace deal.

“There are lots of weapons in the hands of these bandits and as long as such rifles are still with them, they can hardly stop their heinous crimes. These rifles give them the courage to strike at will and most of the times unchallenged.

“Secondly, these criminals are used to amassing huge amount of money from kidnappings. Millions of naira is delivered to them inside the forest with ease. Getting such money from people without doing something is also another factor. After the peace deal, the money ceased to flow and they could not enforce restraint on themselves.

“We should also understand how addicted these criminals are to drugs. Most of these crimes are being perpetrated under the influence of hard drugs. That’s why they are brutal in their attacks. A normal human being in his right sense can’t do that. All these are factors responsible for the resurgence of these crimes in the state.”

However, a source within the security circle told Daily Trust on Sundaythat there are many of the hard-line bandits who in the first place did not accept the peace agreement. He said the unrepentant bandits are becoming hard to convince on the need to embrace peace.

“The repentant ones who are always in touch with authorities are finding it difficult to convince them to accept the peace offer. However, since there’s a significant reduction in attacks and abductions, the authorities would work hard to consolidate on the gains so far,” he added.

The state commissioner of security and home affairs Alhaji Abubakar Dauran could not be reached for comment as he did not return multiple calls by our correspondent.

However, the state commissioner for information Alhaji Suleiman Tunau Anka said the peace deal is intact, he however admitted that there are some recalcitrant armed men who still refused to accept the deal.

He said there had been series of meetings to consolidate on the gains so far. “There was a meeting in Maru Local Government Area and it was convened at the instance of the repentant bandits themselves and it was agreed at the meeting that those deviating from the agreement reached earlier would be dealt with.”

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