More facts have emerged on why a notorious bandit in Zamfara State, Bello Turji, 0unconditionally released 52 persons who had been under his captivity for a long time, sources familiar with the matter told Daily Trust.
The release of the captives, Daily Trust gathered, was part of a renewed backdoor talks between Turji and emissaries of the Zamfara State Government.
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This paper had in early December reported that a delegation visited Turji’s enclave to reopen talks after the terror kingpin rebuffed earlier entreaties from the Shinkafi community.
Turji is the arrowhead of killings and kidnappings for ransom especially around Shinkafi, Sabon Birni and Isa local government areas in Zamfara and Sokoto states.
It was gathered that the released victims including women, in most cases, had been kidnapped by armed men loyal to the terror kingpin mostly along Shinkafi – Isa, Isa – Sabon Birni and Kaura Namoda Shinkafi roads.
“Some of them had spent more than two months in captivity and some were freed after ransoms were paid by their families. Those whose families could not raise the huge ransoms demanded by the armed criminals remained in captivity up to this time when Almighty Allah came to their rescue,” a resident of Shinkafi told our reporter by telephone.
“They were not only kept in Turji’s camps, some of the abducted people were under the custody of some Turji’s boys including one called Danbokolo. One resident was able to spot some of those who were kept in Danbokolo’s camp when they were moving in the vehicles”.
At the time of filing this story, a convoy of vehicles conveying the released hostages was on its way to Gusau where they will be debriefed and then reunited with their families.
Sources said Turji might be under intense pressure following the recent aggressive military operations in the area that precipitated the killings of many of his family members and kinsmen.
Last month Turji wrote Shinkafi Emirate Council, stressing his willingness to lay down arms and embrace peace. Sources said it is part of the dialogue with Turji that led to the release of the kidnapped victims.
But some residents said Turji might be planning to leave the area completely even if he is not laying down his arms or renounce banditry.
A historian with the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Dr Murtala Ahmad Rufa’i called on government to be cautious as it engage Turji in dialogue, and asked for sincerity and diligence for the success of any non-kinetic operation.
He said while Turji’s name is soiled due to the atrocities he committed, there was no harm engaging him in dialogue but it should be ensured that at the end he and others who committed severe crimes face justice.
Dr Rufa’i pointed out that previous peace deals with bandits did not succeed because of procedural hitches occasioned by lack of proper documentation, engagement and follow-up, pointing out that the lapses had to be addressed in any subsequent conversation.
“Most importantly, security agencies, especially the military, should thoroughly study these people and their psychology and operations for them to approach the issues in their different forms, which differ from one location to another,” he said.