Despite Military Presence, Killings Continue as Bandits fell 15 in Zamfara

  • 7 in Kogi, 3 in Jos

Mohammed Aminu in Gusau, Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja and Seriki Adinoyi in Jos

About one week after 26 people were murdered in some communities in Zamfara State, at least 15 persons were killed on Friday by cattle rustlers in Zanuka Village, Anka Local Government Area of the state. This was in spite of a heavy military presence following recent special operations launched to try to contain the activities of gunmen, who have killed hundreds of people in the state in the last three years.

The killers were also In Kogi State on Saturday morning, where they felled seven persons, including the son of the village head of Okpareke, in Kogi Local Government Area, where former Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Mohammed Chris Ali (rtd), hails from.

And in Plateau State, the police confirmed an attack saturday on Kura Falls, a community in Gashish District, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, which led to the death of three people.

A resident of Zanuka village, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being attacked, said the attackers invaded the village on Friday morning and rustled cows belonging to the villagers. He revealed that a vigilante group, popularly known as “Yansakai,” took on the rustlers and were able to force them out of the community. According to him, the bandits returned later and attacked the village, killing 15 people.

The Police Public Relations Officer in Zamfara State, Shehu Muhammed, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, confirmed the incident to THISDAY saturday in Gusau.

Muhammed said, “This attack is purely a case of a clash between rustlers and members of the vigilante group in Zanuka village. Had it been the vigilante group informed the police in time about the cattle rustled by the criminals, an action would have been taken to prevent this attack.

“In fact, on receiving the reports of the attack, our men were mobilised to the village and they discovered 15 dead bodies, majority of who were members of the vigilante group.

“But the situation is under control at the moment, as the police have deployed adequate security to the area to maintain peace and secure the lives of the people.”

The police commissioner appealed to residents of the state to continue to provide useful information to the police in order to combat crime and banditry. He promised that the police would do everything in its powers to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

In an effort to root out the cattle rustlers and armed bandits terrorising Zamfara State, President Muhammadu Buhari launched a special military action, tagged “Operation Harbin Kunama” in Dansadau forest of the state on July 13, 2016. Dansadau Emirate in Maru Local Government Area is one of the worse hit by the activities of armed bandits and cattle rustlers. The military conducted “Operation Harbin Kunama II” in December 2017 and “Operation Harbin Kunama III” this year.

THISDAY reliably gathered that the assailants, who attacked Okpareke in Kogi State on Saturday, had first invaded the community in the early hours of Tuesday, shooting sporadically and killing some villagers. It was learnt that the casualties followed an attempt by the community to resist the attackers.

The attacks in Plateau State occurred on Friday night on Kura-Falls community of Gashish District in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area.

The spokesperson of the State Police Command, Mr. Terna Tyopev, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, confirmed the attacks in a telephone interview on Saturday evening.

Tyopev said, “We have received information this morning, at about 0700hrs that residents were attacked in Kura Falls yesterday (Friday) at about 2130hrs and early this (Saturday) morning by unknown gunmen which resulted in the death of three persons.

“They are Dawala Bullet (30 years old), Fidelis Richard (31 years old) and Iliya Doro (60 years old), all male of the same address. We have mobilised to the District (Gashish District). Investigation into the case is ongoing to track and arrest the perpetrators to face justice.”

Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) had in a statement signed by Nuru Muhammad Abdullahi alleged attacks on Fulani and rustling of their cattle by suspected youths from Berom ethnic nationality.

Abdullahi demanded that the government should as a matter of urgency “intervene and arrest the situation, investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and their sponsors and take any other appropriate action to avert further escalation.”

He said the attack on the Fulani cut across all the three local government areas occupied by the Berom, adding, “The recent attack on herdsmen in Jong village of Ropp District of Barkin Ladi LGA was particularly pathetic considering that Fulani were observing the Ramadan fasting.”

But the Berom, on the other hand, have dismissed the allegations by the Fulani, insisting that the Fulani had attacked and displaced several Berom from their ancestral homes.

Addressing the press in Jos, Berom Educational and Cultural Organisation (BECO) said over 33,000 Beroms had been rendered homeless following incessant Fulani attacks

Vice Chairman of BECO, Chief Iliya Choji kim, while lamenting the wanton killings and destruction of property in Berom communities in May, called on the federal and state governments to do everything in their powers to ensure that the Berom reclaimed their homes and farms that had been forcefully occupied by the Fulani.

He said, “The native villages that are under occupation must be vacated for the people to get back to their ancestral homes to carry on with their livelihood just like any other law-abiding citizens of Nigeria. These natives are now squatting with relations and other good-spirited friends.

“The killings in Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Bassa and Riyom local government areas must be properly investigated to fish out those responsible for sanction.”

He added, “Despite that these herders/terrorists have visited our ancestral land with mayhem and are now arrogantly occupying a good number of villages, they are the ones who have the guts to cry foul.”