By Jimoh Babatunde, Wole Mosadomi & Ibrahim hassan
Despite the order given security agents to crackdown on bandits disturbing the peace of Zamfara State, gunmen suspected to be bandits have attacked Ruwan Tofa in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State, kidnapping several persons, mainly women and children.
Though Vanguard could not ascertain the exact number of persons abducted, some residents who managed to escape the onslaught said about 60 were taken away.
The development came as the state government, yesterday, declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Jangebe, following the mob action that trailed yesterday’s official handover of the 279 abducted students of Government Girls Secondary School who were set free by their abductors on Tuesday to their parents.
Residents said the bandits also set many houses and vehicles on fire in the attack that occurred Wednesday.
“They came in and started shooting, and setting houses on fire. People started running for safety, and some of the women and children who couldn’t run were abducted by the gunmen.”
The source said the bandits had also attacked two days ago, killing at least 15 people.
‘My 4 wives, children abducted’
An eyewitness lamented that his four wives and children were abducted by the armed men who left behind only his seven-year-old child.
He explained that a representative of the village head and his entire family, as well as married women, children, and some aged ones were among those abducted.
Residents of the village faulted the response of security agencies to the attack, saying they made several calls to them as soon as the bandits arrived the community.
But dismissing report of the attack yesterday, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in the state, Shehu Mohammed, said in a statement: “The attention of Zamfara State Police Command has been drawn to the story trending on different media platforms about the attack on Tungar Baushe in Maru LGA.
“The number quoted was misleading and attempt to create fear in the minds of Zamfara citizens.
“The Zamfara Police Command has received information about the attack on the village which occurred on March 3, 2021. Our combined teams of ground and aerial surveillance are on extensive bush combing of the surrounding forests to rescue the victims suspected to have been kidnapped.
“Members of the public are enjoined to discountenance the reported figures and assist the security forces in the ongoing operations. They are to equally remain calm, as we update you from time to time, please.”
Recall that some media outfits quoted as many as 70 people kidnapped by the bandits who were said to have stormed the community wielding sophisticated weapons.
In a related development, Zamfara State Government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state, following an incident that occurred at Jangebe town Wednesday when the 279 abducted schoolgirls of Government Secondary School were reunited with their parents.
One person was reportedly shot by security operatives who allegedly opened fire after a mob kicked against the insistence on a formal handover before parents could leave with the released girls.
To prevent further breach of peace, the state through a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Sulaiman Tunau Anka, said: “Sequel to an unfortunate civil disobedience which took place at Jangebe town after the return of the released abducted school children, the Zamfara State government has approved the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew at Jangebe town. This is to prevent any further breach of peace.
“Similarly, there is strong evidence of market activities in the town that aid and abet bandits’ activities in the town and neighbouring communities. Consequently, all market activities in the town are hereby suspended until further notice.
“The state government is poised to ensure safety of lives and properties of its citizens at all cost.
“With this announcement, the Zamfara State Police Command is hereby enjoined to ensure total enforcement.”
Hausa, Fulani men abducted Jangebe schoolgirls— Zamfara gov
Similarly, the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Mohammed (Matawalle Maradun), has said those who abducted the Jangebe schoolgirls are of Hausa and Fulani ethnic stocks.
The governor, who stated this on a Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Wednesday night, said: “They say most of them are Hausa and some of them are Fulani. In fact, they even asked the school children to pray for them. So, they say they are of different entities, contrary to the thought that they are all Fulani.
“Some reporters have interviewed some of the girls who have identified some of these guys (kidnappers). In fact, one of the girls told us that she knows one of them who is Hausa and who used to come to Jangebe market.
“She promised that any time he comes to Jangebe market, she will be able to identify him and point him out to the security agents.”
Commanders of bandit groups meet in Niger
Meanwhile, permanent peace may eventually return to Niger State as commanders of some bandit groups held a peace meeting in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state last week.
They were said to have deliberated on how to cease fire and return to the path of peace.
Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, who confirmed this while answering questions from journalists at Government House, Minna, yesterday said a meeting was held by the bandits in the forest last week but noted that government was not represented in the meeting.
“Government was aware of a peace meeting held by bandits and it held in their hideout in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state last week. The meeting was summoned by the commander of a bandit group resident in Niger State.
“He invited other commanders from outside the state for the meeting to work on how to restore peace to Niger State,” the SSG said.
Explaining the reason the state government did not send representatives to the meeting, Alhaji Matane, who had attended similar meetings with the bandits along with Islamic scholar, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, in their hideouts recently, explained that the meeting was purely for the commanders of various bandits’ groups within and outside the state.
“The state government was not represented at the meeting because we realised that the meeting was purely for other bandits from other locations to talk to each other on how to have permanent peace in the state.
“However, we have agreed that we will interface with them again to see where we can come in, towards having a lasting peace in the state.
“Like I have always said, security is like stick and carrot and the state government will be willing to stretch its hands of friendship to those who are willing to be in the mainstream and eventually see reasons they should not carry arms but pursue legitimate means of livelihood,” he declared.
18 of the 25 local government areas of the state had been under the siege of bandits in the past few months.
Military jets bomb bandits over locations in Birnin Gwari
Also yesterday, the military conducted armed reconnaissance over Sararai and Dogon Gona in Birnin Gwari local government area. of Kaduna State.
Samuel Aruwan ,Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State, who confirmed this, said about 6km Northeast of Sararai, bandits huts were bombarded by military jets.
According to him, similar operation was conducted at Dogon Dawa.
”Further missions were conducted over Gagafada, Gunki, Kushaka, Kugu, Polewire, and Crossing Point. All locations covered were reported calm.
Another mission reported active makeshift tents at Alhaji Bokolo.
”The location was engaged with rockets. Fleeing bandits from the initial salvo were mopped up with cannons. At Ruwan Tofa, suspicious movement of motorcycles was observed as riders scampered for safety on sighting the aircraft.
Ground troops at Birnin Gwari, Gagafada and Udawa reported calm situations.
Receiving the operational feedback, Governor Nasir El-Rufai expressed his gratitude and commended the forces for the successful missions,” the commissioner said.