Seven persons including a seven-year-old girl kidnapped at Rijana along Abuja – Kaduna highway on Saturday have been rescued by joint operation Thunder Strike.
Aishat Bisola, 26, Ahmad Abdulrafiu, 26, Maryam Abubakar, 7, Suleiman Khadija, 25, Lawal Temitope, 23, Bala Abdullahi, 52 and Abdulrazak Okunola, 35, who were travelling from Offa, Kwara state to Kaduna when they were kidnapped, said that their abductors, who were dressed in full military camouflage, had stopped them in Rijana at about 9:30 pm and quickly moved them into the forest.
Narrating how they were able to rescue the victims, Force Commander, Operation Thunder Strike, Col. Ibrahim Gambari said, “based on the report on the incident by the police on Sunday, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that the innocent civilians are reunited with their families. We are here to assist the people, we have collaborators living among the civil populace. People know these people but they will not give them out and that has been the main problem.
“The kidnappers, 15 in number according to the victims, were dealt with. One of our constraints is the terrain, the terrain is not noticeable and troops have to travel for about three and a half hours on foot. We had to change our mode of operation and as we are evolving strategies day and night, the kidnappers are also evolving their own strategies, so we are trying our best to keep up the tempo,” he said.
The Force Commander however warned the public to avoid travelling at night and if they must, “they should make a u-turn at the sight of any roadblock as we are still working and have not reach the state we want to achieve.”
He said two AK47, 130 rounds of ammunition, five magazine, two mobile phones, N100,000 and three camouflage were recovered from the kidnappers.
Operation Thunder Strike, is a Defence headquarters led joint operation comprising of Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, DSS and NSCDC deployed to address security threats along Kaduna-Abuja, Kaduna-Birni Gwari and Kaduna-Zaria highways. The Force Commander said since inception of the operation, they have been trying their best to put an end to ugly incidences that have been occurring on the highways.
“Before the operation was launched, several cases of kidnapping on a daily basis was being recorded especially during the day. But, since the inception of operation, we have been able to nip in the bud such incidences and most of the cases that were recorded usually happen at night and that is why the Kaduna state government stopped the mounting of road blocks along the road,” he said.
One of the survivors, Aliyu Aishat Bisola, said, they were kept on a rock for five days without food, “we trekked for over three hours before we reached the kidnappers’ den on mountain top. They collected all our phones and money while they were negotiating ransom between N10 million to N2 million.
“The kidnappers used to beat us everyday. They even covered the face of another male victim and threatened to kill him if he does not bring money. They did not give us any food or water and we sat on the rock under rain and sun without any shelter from that Saturday till Wednesday when we were rescued,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan who received the rescued victims on behalf of the government commended the army for the successful operation that led to the victims’ rescue.
Speaking while handing over the victims to leadership of Offa Descendants Union, Aruwan said the victims would be taken to hospital for medical check up. He reiterated that, no ransom was paid to the bandits before rescuing the seven kidnapped victims as he commended the military for a successful operation.
According to him, ”They were rescued due to the doggedness of our troops and so, no ransom was paid to rescue the victims. We are thankful to the military for rescuing the victims,” he said, while urging travellers to be cautious of travelling in the night and early in the morning.
Receiving the victims National Vice President Offa Descendants Union, Professor, Tijjani Olanisimi thanked the Kaduna state government and the Nigerian Military for rescuing the victims. He said since the victims were kidnapped their family members had sleepless nights. He urged the government security agencies in particular to be more proactive to end kidnapping around Kaduna-Abuja highway.