Troops of the Nigerian Army attached to Operation Harbin Kunama 3 have arrested the traditional heads of Doka and Mutu villages in the Gusau Local Government Area of the state for serving as informants to bandits.
The troops also shot dead six bandits in Kirsa and Sunke villages in the Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara State during a gun battle.
The arrest of the traditional heads comes two weeks after the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said some traditional rulers in Zamfara and the North-West region helped bandits to perpetuate criminal activities.
Although the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs denied the allegations, the minister insisted in another statement by his Public Relations Officer, Col Tukur Gusau, a week later that the Federal Government had some security reports from the region indicting some traditional rulers of complicity in banditry and killings in the state.
According to the army on Monday, apart from the arrests of the leaders of Doka and Mutu villages, whose names were not disclosed, the troops nabbed 16 other suspected informants and errand men to the bandits.
Our correspondent learnt that the troops were on a clearance operation in Kirsa and Sunke villages in the Anka Local Government Area when they ambushed the bandits and engaged them in a shoot-out for about two hours.
The soldiers thereafter killed six of the bandits, recovered two AK-47 rifles and two motorcycles.
The bandits were armed with “sophisticated automatic weapons” but were forced to flee, abandon their camps and logistics, which were subsequently destroyed by the troops.
The Director, Army Public Relations, in a statement on Monday, confirmed the arrests of the village leaders and the deaths, of the bandits, saying three motorcycles, two dane guns, two machetes, among others were recovered from the bandits in Gusau Local Government Area.
He said, “Troops on Operation Harbin Kunama 3, based on credible intelligence about bandits’ movements in Kirsa and Sunke in the Anka LGA, continued with a clearance operation into the hinterland to clear the brigands.
“Consequently, the troops engaged the bandits in a shoot-out at the bushes of Kirsa and Sunke villages which resulted in the extermination of six criminals, the recovery of two AK-47 rifles and two motorcycles.
“In Doka and Mutu villages in the Gusau LGA, troops also had a serious encounter on Saturday with a group of bandits which lasted for about two hours. The brigands were armed with sophisticated automatic weapons, but they were overpowered by the troops, forcing them to flee from their hideouts. Eighteen suspected informants to the bandits were arrested, including the village heads of Doka and Mutu villages.”
He added, “The Force Commander, Maj.-Gen Hakeem Otiki, said the troops would continue to go after bandits in Zamfara and the contiguous states of Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto.”
Meanwhile, the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs has denied apologising to the Nigerian Air Force over its allegations that innocent villagers were victims of air strikes targeted at bandits and kidnappers terrorising the state.
Chairman of the state Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad, the Emir of Anja, while speaking to newsmen on Monday, described the report that the emirs apologised as baseless.
Recalling what transpired when the Chief of Air Staff delegation visited him, Alhaji Ahmad said, “I received an entourage led by Air Vice Marshall Idi Lubo, who was in the state to condole and sympathised with the entire people of the state over a mistake made by NAF that consumed innocent lives.
“In my remarks, there was no where I apologised that NAF mistakenly killed innocent lives during its bombardments on targeted camps operated by bandits across some villages in the state recently but, I rather used words of respect as did by the August visitor which had been our tradition when receiving guests.
“Our council meeting had, based on credible reports, believed that the killings of innocent people had occurred and we stand by our position. If later, I would come back to make a U-turn on that matter then, I should not remain as Emir,” he said.
Attahiru further said that NAF had accepted that the action was a mistake.
But NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “We will not take issue with esteemed royal fathers and traditional rulers. We follow the due process to ensure that it is only the criminals that are taken out by the air strikes. We remain resolute and we will continue our operations.”