48 Hours After Attacking Kaduna Airport, Terrorists Blow Up Abuja-Kaduna Train

•Scores of families seek information on loved ones, as El-Rufai visits scene accompanied by troops

•Many feared kidnapped, scores shot  

• NRC MD confirm attack, recounts how he spoke to train driver

Kingsley Nwezeh, Kasim Sumaina in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

Forty-eight hours after attacking the Kaduna airport, killing an aviation worker and injuring many others, terrorists, yesterday, escalated their attacks by bombing an Abuja-Kaduna train, with some 970 passengers onboard.

It was, however, not the first time that the extremists had targeted the train in furtherance of their attacks.

Already, scores of families had begun to seek information on their loved ones, who were believed to be onboard the train, trying to mark them safe.

Although reports on casualties were still sketchy, unconfirmed details claimed many of the passengers were kidnapped, while scores were shot by the terrorists while forcing their way into the train.

Managing Director of Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, who confirmed the development, recounted how he spoke to the train driver, saying, “We cannot give you much information now,” as no one was able to give an accurate account of what happened as at press time.

At the same time, the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, had immediately visited the scene of the attack last night, accompanied by some troops to have a firsthand information on the situation.

This is as the state government, which had earlier confirmed the incident, stating that, the government had since secured the train through mobilisation and reinforcement of the security. 

There have been various accounts about how the terrorists might have succeeded in derailing the train, which reportedly left station in Abuja around 6pm yesterday.

Some accounts alleged that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted in one of the coaches, which exploded, derailing and destroying some of the coaches  and leaving the fate of the 970 passengers onboard or the casualty figures uncertain.

Another account claimed the attack was carried out using a detonated device suspected to be a bomb planted on the rail track, which exploded on impact as train rode on the spot. 

But THISDAY could not independently confirm if the bomb was planted on the train or rail track.

THISDAY, however, gathered that as part of moves to secure the trains, Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi, had long made efforts to bring in some special security detection devices, that would aid the operators of the trains to detect IEDs and other like components for passengers’ safety, but the move had been stalled for some time now as a result of bureaucratic bottlenecks in the system.

Sources said many of the passengers were abducted while others were trapped on the floor of the train at the time of filling this report.

In the addition to the myriad of information coming in pieces, THISDAY learnt the attack occurred at a point between Katari and Rijana.

An eye-witness account said the impact of the explosion was what derailed the train.

“They planted IED. When it went off, it derailed the train. There was pandemonium everywhere and some people may be kidnapped,” the source said.

One of the passengers, who reportedly confirmed the incident in a telephone call, said the attackers had surrounded the train and shot sporadically.

Another panic-stricken passenger explained, “All the passengers are currently lying on the floor of the train. The bandits are shooting sporadically. We are in serious danger.”

Speaking with a national daily (not THISDAY), a passenger said he counted six people with bullet wounds but could not say if they were dead.

“There are six people we have counted with bullet wounds, there maybe more but so far this is what I can confirm. Security agents are trying to get them medical attention. We also learnt that the bandits forced their way into some coaches and have abducted some people,” he said.

Zainab Musa, another passenger, according to the national daily, which could not independently verify some of the claims, described the attack as shocking. She explained, “Currently we are all lying down flat and security forces have started converging to drive the terrorists away. We are grateful to be safe and not harmed.”

Passenger Anas Iron Danmusa said the explosives planted by the terrorists “destroyed” the engine of the train.

Please this is an emergency. We are inside train at the moment. Kidnappers planted explosives and the train engines have been ruined. We are helpless. Abuja to Kaduna train. Gunshots still being fired right around us. We are just under the seats praying to God while waiting for help.”

He said, “since 8pm, we have been here. The gunmen were shooting sporadically around Katari-Rijana area. I am a living witness.”

There were at least 970 passengers onboard the train, according to official sources familiar with the train service.

Okhiria, who was already in Abuja, said, “Most of the passengers have gone into hiding and they cannot be giving information, but there are reports of gunshots, continued gunshot as the train stopped,” confirming too, that the attack occurred at a point between Katari and Rijana.

The managing director added that some passengers could not leave the train, which meant nobody knew what might happen to them.

Meanwhile, the Kaduna State government said last night that relevant agencies were urgently contacted, and robust deployments of personnel were swiftly made to the area to secure the passengers on board.

The government said, “The Kaduna State Government received multiple reports of an attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train service at around Kateri-Rijana general areas. Efforts are on-going to convey the passengers from the location and others that sustained injuries have been rushed to hospitals for medical attention.

The Kaduna State government said, “The government of Kaduna State will be liaising with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to ascertain the list from the passengers’ manifest for efficient tracking. This is to acquire an accurate inventory of all passengers and their actual status.

“Governor Nasir El-Rufa’I, who has been in constant touch with the security forces, commended them for their prompt response, and thanked them for successfully securing the train and passengers on board.”

The statement issued by the Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Kaduna State, Mr Samuel Aruwan, said security forces had continued to comb the general area in additional rescue efforts.

“Emerging developments will be communicated to the public,” the state government stated, adding, “Security agencies have reported to the Kaduna State government that the military has secured the Kaduna bound train from Abuja trapped by terrorists.”

According to government sources, the continuous attacks informed the reason Amaechi bought into the idea of further securing the trains, when he approved the purchase of some security detection devices, unfortunately, the bottlenecks in the system stalled the move.

Although the minister, according to sources, has continued to reiterate the need for the devices to come in as soon as possible in the interest of the public, some vested interest hiding behind due process had continued to delay the project.

12 of Kaduna Airport Attackers Killed, Says Army

In a related development, the 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, yesterday, said, “About 12” of the terrorists that attacked the Kaduna International Airport on Saturday were killed through air strike.

Briefing journalists after conducting them round the scene of the incident, the Garrison Commander of the Division, Brig-Gen. Uriah Opuene, said, preliminary investigations revealed that the bandits were just passing through the back of the Airport.

Opuene said the terrorists were heading towards Riyawa village, when they sighted (and killed) the security man engaged by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to watch over their metrological equipment around the axis.

Opuene stated, “As you can see, this place is about six kilometres away from the airport terminal. The bandits were only passing behind the airport perimeter fence, when they saw the security man engaged by NAMA and they fired at him. They just took advantage of that to pass a message that they have attacked the airport.

“There are several layers of security at the airport, this is the first layer and even this first layer was not breached, because from the moment of hearing that shot, it took our men just about three minutes to get here from the next layer of security.

“On arrival, the bandits were already running away, so we engaged them through the use of ground forces. Then, we called for air strike and an helicopter was deployed and from the air report, about 12 of the bandits were killed.”

Speaking further, the Garrison Commander, who was in company with the Kaduna Air Force Base Commander, Air Commodore Ademuyiwa Adedoyin and the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, dismissed reports that the bandits took over the airport.

Aruwan said, “So, as you can see from the distance, the insinuation that the terrorists took over the airport is not correct. If the terrorists had entered, they would have met us there,” the Garrison Commander said

He maintained that there were several layers of security at the Airport, stressing that bandits could not have dared to attack it.

Speaking also, NAF Base Commander, Air Commodore Adedoyin, said security around the airport area generally had been beefed up since the security breach at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) last year, adding that bandits didn’t have the audacity to attack Kaduna Airport.

Aruwan said the state government was engaging communities around the airport to scale up intelligence gathering, and that there was no threat to the immediate vicinity of the airport, because the military was ahead of the terrorists.

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