Zamfara state has recently witnessed an upsurge in deadly raids on rural communities, especially in Tsafe local government. Recently, locals reportedly lynched some suspected informants to the bandits. Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the situation.
In recent weeks, armed bandits and cattle-rustlers have renewed their attacks on rural communities across Zamfara State, with dozens of communities being sacked, following deadly raids and kidnappings. This month alone, more than 64 persons were killed in attacks on the villages of Malikawa, Gidan Haliliu, and Gidan Kaka in Maradun and Birnin Magaji LGAs.
Tsafe LGA is the worst-hit, with more than 40 deaths in the last three weeks, leaving many communities deserted. For instance, some residents of a village called Danjibga, in the LGA, fished out suspected informants of the bandits and kidnappers, and lynched them. This is, locals say, due to the last four weeks during which the community has suffered series of humiliating assaults and kidnappings. “It drove people wild,” a resident said.
One of the atrocities of the armed kidnappers that also stirred fury, is the abduction of a housewife while she was in labour pains. She gave birth to a baby less than 5 hours after her kidnap, in the kidnappers’ den. She spent weeks in captivity, later released after ransom was paid by her husband.
“It’s just too much, and residents could not take any more, hence the lynching,” a source said.
In Tsafe East, communities such as Munhaye, Yar’ Tsakuwa, and Kaurar Zomo suffered similar fates. There is a community market holding every Sunday in Munhaye village, but armed men throng it for transactions, unchallenged. Also, in that area, no-one dares go to farm for fear of being kidnapped, or killed, a resident told Daily Trust Saturday.
Also, residents of many communities in that same area have been forced to flee their homes. Our reporter, who visited Government Focal Secondary School, saw hundreds of internally displaced persons, including women and children.
The sacked communities in Tsafe East include Asaula, Kwadawa, Dogon Kawo, Mandaba, Yanza, Kulutu, Sakkya and Fegin Dakai, and many more.
Last Monday, angry youths protested in Tsafe LGA, and set fire to vehicles and other property. They also blocked Gusau-Funtua-Zaria road, and destroyed some party offices, political billboards, and the local government secretariat. The demonstration started as peaceful one, but was later hijacked by some violent youth.
Spokesman of the state police command, SP Muhammad Shehu, said 23 suspects had been arrested, with weapons recovered, and will soon be paraded.
Chairman of Tsafe LGA, Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, described the incident as unfortunate. “The violent thugs must have been motivated by mischievous politicians who feel that they must always be in control,” adding that a committee will be set up to investigate. Also observed, was an increased presence of policemen in the local government headquarters.
Back at the building where displaced persons are taking shelter, the name “Ado Alero” was constantly on IDPs’ lips. Multiple sources who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday, said Ado Alero was the brain behind the upsurge of attacks in many communities, especially those in the eastern Tsafe area.
“[Alero] is a notorious armed bandit and cattle-rustler, a Fulani, and has a large number of cattle-rustlers loyal to him. He is also a herder, and his settlement is situated at a community in Tsafe, called Sakkya Dutse,” a source said. Last week, rumours were rife that he was killed in a gunfight with the Civilian JTF members, near a community called Tafkin Kazai, while another version of the story said he was killed near Wailari village.
The news that Alero was killed sparked jubilation across the communities he has been terrorizing, but the news later turned out to be fake, as it was discovered that it was his henchman, identified as Nawagini, who was killed.
In the past, Alero had to flee the state following an intensive operation by security operatives, but he later returned to the state after a purported ‘peace agreement’, and later resumed his criminality.
Chairman of Tsafe LGA, Abubakar, told Daily Trust Saturday that the seizure of Alero’s 480 cows in the aforementioned operation sometime back was what prompted him to organize his gangs to intensify attacks, in retaliation.
A heavily pregnant woman identified as Ra’aina said the she trekked several kilometers alongside her husband to the headquarters of Tsafe LGA for safety. “My husband warned that we should flee to wherever we feel is safer, so we came here,” she said.Alhaji Yusuf Wambai, village head of Asaula community, told Daily Trust Saturday that he was the first person to flee his village when he learnt that the bandits had intensified their attacks on neighbouring communities. “I left the village, and my subjects followed me. We are not safe, so government should please deploy more security operatives to our communities,” he pleaded.
Another woman, who identified herself as Mariya Maikano, narrated how her husband was killed when bandits invaded their home. “My husband hid under a bed, and when they broke into our bedroom and asked his whereabouts, I told that he wasn’t around. One of them said he saw him enter the room. They began to search the room, and he was found. An armed man fired his rifle under the bed, and blood poured out,” she sobbed.
Some other residents said the villages affected were mostly deserted with the armed bandits torching local grain silos abandoned by residents.
From January to date, at least 388 people were killed in attacks on at least 33 rural communities of Maru, Zurmi, Anka, Maradun Maru, Shinkafi Tsafe, Gummi, Gusau and Birnin Magaji LGAs of the state.
Zurmi LGA has recorded the highest casualties with 89 reported deaths. The armed bandits in the local government area killed 41 in Birane in February and 40 in attacks on Kwaddi and Gambiro in August and 8 in Gurbin Bore in November this year. Maradun LGA was second, recording 78 deaths after attacks on more than ten villages in Gidan Goga and Faru districts between May and December this year. Birnin Magaji LGA recorded the third highest casualties with 63 deaths after deadly assaults. Anka LGA follows, with 62 deaths. The villages of Bawar Daji, Kuru kuru and Jarkuka were raided in March and April this year.
In early November, troops deployed for Operation Sharan Daji said they had killed at least 21 bandits, recovered 24 rifles and 55 motorbikes. Also, policemen had carried out series of operations in which they killed a number of bandits and recovered hundreds of rustled cows.
Worried by the upsurge, despite the deployment of more troops, police and other security operatives, the Zamfara State government had in November this year announced the recruitment of 8,500 Civilian JTF members.
Last March, the notorious cattle rustling kingpin known as ‘Buharin Daji’ was killed during a spat with a rival gang, in a forest in Dansadau district.