Blow-by-blow accounts of recent banditry in Zamfara state

Zamfara state has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent times. SANUSI MUHAMMAD in this piece chronicles the killings that have taken place in the state especially in 2019.

A few days ago, some parts of Zamfara state was again thrown into mourning following the massacre of  innocent citizens by armed  bandits, a simultaneous, barbaric and inhumane attacks in which Blueprint had reported that no fewer than 113 innocent citizens were reportedly killed in different locations with properties worth millions of naira destroyed and several persons inflicted  with injuries.

As a result of this, many residents of villages in Shinkafi, Anka and Tsafe, Gusau, Maradun and Maru local governments have left their ancestral homes and moved to some urban areas like local government headquarters for their immediate safety.

Blueprint investigation shows that there was no official provision for internally displaced persons by either the state, local government councils and federal government as some of the victims managed to hybernate in primary schools like those ii Anka, Maradun, Mada, Zurmi, Shinkafi, among others.

The accounts

In early February, reports indicated that the bandits sacked several villages in Tsafe local government area, a situation which forced over 2,000 people, mainly women and their children, to leave their ancestral homes and take refuge in two local government councils of Katsina state namely, Kankara and Faskari local government councils, respectively.

 However, on the February 28 2019, the suspected gangs invaded Kwaren Shinkafi village and killed 30 persons among the Zamfara state Civilian Joint Tasks Force (CJTF).

A resident of the area identified as Alhaji Bala Abubakar Shinkafi in an interview with Blueprint said, after two days they discovered additional 33 bodies killed by the bandits inside forest which gave the total of 63 persons killed in Kwaren Shinkafi village. “The bandits in their  hundreds had ambushed the Civilian Joint Tasks Force operatives while escorting traders from Kware village to Shinkafi on Thursday Market day of Shinkafi.” He added that, “Several traders were injured during the attack as the bandits made away with property belonging to traders worth millions of naira. We have buried 63 dead bodies while those who sustained injuries have been taken to Shinkafi General Hospital for urgent medical attention,” he said.

He lamented that no security personnel has been deployed to the area to restore peace as their lives were in serious danger as a result of the attack. He, therefore, appealed to the federal government to deploy more troops to the state to combat armed banditry.

In the same vein, on February 4, at least, 13 people including the elder sister of Senator Kabir Garba Marafa of Zamfara Central Senatorial District, in the person of Hajiya Ade Marafa was killed by the dreaded gang at Ruwan Bore village of Gusau local government area of the state.

A resident in the village identified as Sani Ahmed in an interview with Blueprint stated that the bandits attacked the communities around 9:00pm set many houses ablaze and killed 13 people on the spot.

“The bandits killed the elder sister of Senator Marafa and kidnapped her husband, Alhaji Ibrahim, who is a district head of Ruwan Bore village and attacked communities of Tudun Wadan Maijatau and Takoka villages under Ruwan Bore District

Another gangs of armed bandits launched fresh attack on Kawaye village in Anka local government area of Zamfara state early this month and killed 13 people, abducted the district head, his wife and 58 others. A resident, identified as Muhammad Aliyu Lawali in an interview with Blueprint on phone a day after the attack said the situation  forced Governor Abdulaziz Yari to pay an assessment visit to Kawaye and see the level of damage done to the communities by the bandits in which over twelve vehicles, several number of motorcycles, shops and houses were set ablaze.

The Emir of Anka and  chairman, Council of Chiefs in Zamfara state during governor’s visit to Kawaye Village under his emirate told reporters that over 20 communities were sacked by the bandits. He called on the  government to re-deploy more troops with adequate modern firearms to the area to end the menace.

Earlier on January 28, a suspected group of armed bandits stormed Zurmi town, the headquarters of Zurmi local government area and kidnapped 26 persons.

An eye witness identified as Falalu Ashafa told Blueprint in an interview a day after the incident that the bandits in their hundreds stormed Majema village at around 11 : 00 pm and opened fire sporadically to scare the people away.

Ashafa further said the bandits embarked on house – to – house search and took away their victims.

According to him, his mother, wife and two of his younger brothers were among those abducted.

“As I am talking to you now, we discovered that the bandits kidnapped 26 people which included men and women in our town during the attack and the bandits shot one Sidi Abdulsalam on his hand and kidnapped his two wives and two daughters on the spot”.

More so, a day after Zurmi attack, seven men have been reportedly kidnapped after unknown gunmen struck at a sport viewing centre in Birnin Magaji town, the headquarters of Birnin Magaji local government.

Confirming the incidence, the proprietor of the viewing centre, Sanusi Iliyasu Ishie, said the abductors, numbering about 20, invaded the centre, which is located in the outskirts of Birnin Magaji town around 10:00 p.m.

According to him, they parked some distance away from the centre and demanded the whereabouts of the operator.

“I and the people around answered them in affirmative because we mistook them for security operatives, “ Sanusi said.

He said the gunmen held him hostage and broke into the viewing centre and began to pick people indiscriminately and when the football viewers realised that they were under siege, they started scampering out of the centre, screaming for help in panic. “ At the end, they picked six of the viewers who tried to escape and demanded N100 million before they could release the victims.”

Gov Yari had called for emergency rule

Governor Yari had supported the federal government’s plan to declare a state of emergency in the state following the prevalence of banditry that have claimed many lives and displaced thousands in recent times.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued to newsmen and made available to Blueprint in Gusau signed by acting spokesperson of the military, Major Clement Abiade, it said the troops of Operation Sharan Daji in Zamfara has achieved tremendous successes leading to the recovery of weapons ammunitions and rustled cattle.

According to him, the troops also had several encounters with bandits during the period in focus and neutralised 55 bandits.  A total of 24 suspected bandits informants, rustlers, kidnappers and logistics suppliers were arrested during the period in focus. The suspects, he said, have been handed over to the Police for investigation and possible prosecution. Similarly, the air component of operation SHARAN DAJI carried out several air strikes around Kagara, Gando, Fankama, Fete and Dumburum forests. Subsequent operations in the forests led to the rescue of 760 abductees. The abductees consisted of men, women and children from communities in the state.

Troops of Operation SHARAN DAJI recovered 4 AK47 rifles, 1 rocket propelled gun tube, 12 dane guns, 27 AK47 magazines, 168 rounds of 7.62mm (special) ammunitions, 1 pump action gun, 47 motorcycles, a golf wagon  car, 61 rustled cattle, 3 pounds of marijuana, nicotine and tramadol during the period under review.

He said the troop’s sustained operation led to the return of over 1,000 IDPs from Maru to Bini village on February 17 2019. The Emir of Maru, Alhaji Abubakar Chika Banagan and the chairman Maru LGA, Alhaji Salisu Isah Dangulbi, were present at the council headquarters venue. Unfortunately, these feats were not achieved without supreme sacrifice being paid. One officer, 2 soldiers and members of vigilantes paid the supreme prize during the encounter with bandits in Kagara forest.

“The last one week has been a very traumatic one for the people of Zamfara especially in Shinkafi, Anka and Zurmi where bandits carried out coordinated attacks that led to death of civilians. The Force commander commiserates with the families of the fallen heroes and all those who lost their lives. It is also our prayer that their sacrifices and quest for peace in Zamfara state will not be in vain. The Force commander and men of Operation SHARAN DAJI remain resolute to the mandate of tackling the menace of armed banditry in the state. You are please requested to disseminate this information through your medium,” Abiade said.

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