Residents say terrorists launch “merciless” attacks after every military operation.
Residents of Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states in the North-west are witnessing what they described as a surge in terror activities following military offensives that led to the killing of many terrorists in the region.
Several residents and terrorism researchers told PREMIUM TIMES that the increased attacks are the fallout of the military offensives.
Although Nigeria’s security agencies have been battling internal terrorists in different parts of the country for about a decade, there have been increased attacks by security agencies at specific periods.
In the last few days, military authorities have reported the killing of several terrorists in the North-west. Many abducted victims were also rescued during the military operations.
The soldiers also burned down houses and camps belonging to the terrorists.
But, the offensives infuriated the terrorists who are now unleashing mayhem on residents.
“That has always been the trend in the region,” Basharu Guyawa, a researcher on banditry, told PREMIUM TIMES. “For over a week, soldiers conducted operations in the eastern part of Sokoto and the northern part of Zamfara but immediately the operation stopped, the terrorists returned with more anger. People are being killed in high numbers.”
Mr Guyawa, who is also a resident of Isa Local Government Area in Sokoto State, said the terrorists were greatly hit by the military offensive with some of them fleeing to different places, including Niger Republic, with gunshot wounds but they are regrouping to unleash mayhem.
“When the soldiers were in Gundumi forest killing bandits, several of them ran to Rara forest and that was from where they launched an attack on communities in Rabah Local Government.
“When they were engaging the bandits in Sokoto West, the bandits moved deeper into Sokoto East. We need to evolve more strategies in this fight. It needs to be simultaneous and collective,” Mr Guyawa said.
The attacks in the north-west are separate from that of Plateau, north-central Nigeria, where over 100 people were killed on Christmas Eve.
Recent attacks by terrorists
The latest attack by terrorists in the region was the killing of four members of the Katsina State Community Watch Corps in Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State on Tuesday.
The Community Watch Corps was inaugurated by the Katsina State Governor, Dikko Radda, in October this year to help complement the efforts of security agents in the fight against banditry.
“They (watch corps) were ambushed by the terrorists around Dutse na Tara in the evening (Tuesday). The terrorists opened fire on sighting the vehicle conveying them (watch corp members) and two of them died instantly while two others died in Faskari hospital,” Ibrahim Bawa, a resident of the area, told PREMIUM TIMES via phone.
Mr Bawa, who was at the hospital when he spoke with this reporter, said the terrorists must have got information on the movement of the Community Watch Corps members.
The Katsina police spokesperson, Abubakar Sadik, promised to get back to this reporter with details of the attack but was yet to do so at the time of filing this report.
In Sokoto State, 16 people including women and children were killed by terrorists when they attacked Kurya, a community in Rabah Local Government on Christmas day.
A resident of the area, Usama Lawal, said the terrorists operated for over two hours.
“They burnt down a woman and her two small children. They didn’t even care to rustle domestic animals as they used to do. I think the terrorists are angry with locals,” he said.
On Sunday, four traders were killed on their way back home after patronising the Jibia weekly market.
“They were returning from Jibia market to Yan Gayya (a village not far from the Katsina metropolis) when all of a sudden the terrorists opened fire on the vehicle. The driver was shot dead which forced the vehicle down the road. The terrorists only abducted those who were not wounded. They left without taking anything,” a resident of Yan Gayya, where the traders were from, told PREMIUM TIMES.
In Zamfara State, several motorists were abducted by terrorists on the Gusau-Sokoto highway on Sunday.
A vehicle was burnt down by the terrorists in the attack that took place around 07:15 p.m
“The place, between Gidan Kano and Danbaza, used to be one of the safest routes but that night only God knows how many people they abducted,” a motorist, Hashimu Isa, who was going to Talata Mafara, said. “It was miraculous how I was not affected by the attack. When I heard the sporadic gunshots, I went back to Gidan Kano. It took over forty minutes before soldiers arrived.”
About nine communities in Zamfara State also came under attack on separate occasions in the week leading to Christmas. The affected communities are in Bakura and Maradun Local Government.
At least 20 farmers were abducted in Madachi within three days, 18 residents abducted in Dan Kadu and 11 others in Birnin Tudu. Seven more farmers were abducted while 17 others were left with various degrees of gunshot injuries in Yarkofoji.
“We’re witnessing an increase in the number of displaced people in Talata Mafara Local Government from Bakura and Maradun Areas,” a local government official in Talata Mafara, who asked not to be named, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone. ‘But since we don’t have any arrangement for IDPs here, I’m afraid there is nothing we can do about the situation.’
Way to go
Analysts believe that the security challenges in the country though diverse require better coordination to overcome.
“Improved interagency coordination and a clearer delineation of responsibilities could help at a national level, with ONSA leading the way on broader security sector reform,” said James Barnett, an expert in conflicts, terrorism and geopolitics in Africa at the U.S. think tank, Hudson Institute.
“Clamping down on corruption and misappropriation of resources within the security sector is also crucial. Aside from national policies, local knowledge and context are crucial because insecurity has local variations in each region. Oil bunkering, banditry, and Boko Haram/ISWAP all require different tailored solutions, for example,” Mr Barnett said.
Abubakar Ibrahim, a retired military captain, called for synergy between security agencies fighting banditry.
He also said only simultaneous operations in the affected states would bring an end to the security challenges in the North-west.
“The fight against banditry should be an inclusive one that should also be conducted simultaneously,” said Mr Ibrahim, who led the Brigade of Guards during Sani Abacha’s military rule.
“They (soldiers) shouldn’t be doing an on-and-off fight; when they go into the forest to fight the terrorists, let them stay there till they finish all the terrorists. The government should provide them with everything they need so that they’ll not be returning to the town.”
Multiple calls and an SMS sent to Ibrahim Yahaya, the spokesperson of Operation Hadarin Daji, the military operation in the North-west, were not answered.