By Ben Agande
•Police confirm 45 dead
ABUJA—No fewer than 48 bodies have been recovered from Gwaska village in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, following Saturday attack on the community by bandits.
The gunmen also killed the Sarkin Fawa (Head of local vigilante) who was on his way back to the village.
The bandits attacked Gwaska village about 2:30 p.m., residents of the council said.
This came barely 48 hours after the Inspector-General of Police, IGP and Mohammed Mohammed, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, visited Birnin Gwari.
Following the latest attack, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, yesterday, evening announced that the Federal Government had agreed to deploy a permanent army battalion in the troubled area.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Police commissioner, Austin Iwar, yesterday, confirmed that 45 villagers were killed by bandits in Birnin Gwari.
The police commissioner, who confirmed the casualty figure to an online publication, Premium Times in a phone interview, said the police have deployed over 150 personnel to the area as directed by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, yesterday.
He said: “Yes, 45 people were confirmed dead and as we speak the state command has already deployed 150 policemen to the area to provide security.
“We will also deploy another 200 police officers by next week to help protect lives and property in Birnin Gwari. We are doing everything possible to secure the area.”
On the need for the command to work with local vigilante in the area, Austin said the police is already doing so and will continue to work with them in the area of community policing.
The bandits came from neighbouring Dansadau village of Zamfara State, about 10 minutes’ drive to Birnin Gwari, residents said.
Several houses in the village of about 3,000 inhabitants were also set ablaze.
Survivors mostly women now at Doka district said “most of those killed were volunteers that tried to defend the village and children that could not escape the onslaught.”
One other source from the local vigilante said, they “were in Gwaska together with the military at about 7p.m., but the commander asked the soldiers to retreat because of darkness.”
Several calls to the state Police Public Relations officer, Muktar Aliyu were unanswered but a senior police officer in the state, who asked not to be mentioned, confirmed the incident.
Survivors, mostly women now at Doka district, said: “Most of those killed were volunteers that tried to defend the village and children.”
Confirming the death toll as at yesterday, the community vigilante group, Birnin-Gwari Vanguards for Security and Good Governance, in a statement, yesterday, said: “It is tears, sorrow and horrific situation at Gwaska village in Birnin-Gwari local government that were attacked by bandits yesterday.
“So far, about 45 dead bodies were evacuated by the braved vigilante members and volunteers numbering 500 with assistance of a handful of soldiers this afternoon.”
One of the vigilante members said: “The tensed atmosphere and untidy nature of the village environment necessitated the evacuation of 45 bodies discovered for burial rites in Birnin-Gwari town.
Also, one of the volunteers said search and rescue operation was ongoing at Gwaska, saying, “death toll may rise as many bodies are likely to be found in the bush.”
He said: “While we commend the resilience of the brave vigilant members and volunteers, we equally call on the people of Birnin-Gwari to remain calm and vigilance for peaceful burial rites of the deceased and await for government response (if any) on the massacre of innocent lives and destruction of their homes by armed bandits.”
A Former Birnin Gwari Local Government chairman, who does not want his name mentioned, described the attack as the worst in the troubled area.
“These bandits attacked the village in broad daylight and killed many people. They even killed the village Sarkin Fawa (Head of local vigilante) on his way back to the village.
“Nobody can tell you the exact number of people killed because even on the way to the village, 15 bodies were scattered on the road,” he said.
He said until soldiers were deployed to the area, nobody can go there to ascertain the number of people killed.
The former chairman said it will take days to know the exact number of people killed in the attack.
“Police can’t end these killings in Birnin Gwari. We need more soldiers in the area to curtail the killings of our people,” he said.
Another community leader in Birnin Gwari, who identified himself as Hussaini, said more than 20 people were killed by the bandits.
He said many others, including women and children, were displaced.
When contacted, the spokesman to Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Samuel Aruwan, did not respond to a text message sent to him on the the matter at press time.
Birnin Gwari has witnessed several attacks by bandits leading to the death of scores of people including soldiers and police officers.
Meanwhile, six people were killed, including four government officials and a soldier, in an attack by Boko Haram insurgents on a Chadian army checkpoint on an island in Lake Chad, a military source told AFP, yesterday.
The overnight killings, which cost the life of a civilian along with two customs officials, two forestry agents and the soldier, occurred when “Boko Haram elements attacked an advanced post of the Chadian army in Gabalami, in the country’s far west”, the source said.