Five soldiers were killed by Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, in an ambush on a military convoy in Borno State, weekend.
ISWAP split from the mainstream Boko Haram six years ago and rose to become a dominant group.
This came as no fewer than 35 people were kidnapped on Friday, also by ISWAP militants at a fake checkpoint in Garin Kuturu village outside Jakana, 25 kilometres from Maiduguri, Borno State.
Meanwhile, a fresh attack by bandits on Saturday night to kidnap another set and scores of Islamic school students was foiled in Dandume Local Government Area of Katsina State.
Vanguard gathered that the students (Islammiyya students) numbering over one hundred had attended the Maulud celebration in a neighbouring village, Unguwar Al-Kasim, and were on their way home, Mahuta village, when the incident happened.
Also, military and police authorities have informed the Kaduna State Government that four persons have been killed in reprisal attacks in Zangon-Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Revd. Ignatius Kaigama, yesterday, decried what he called “the series of kidnappings” in the country.
He said the rate of abductions was such that something urgent must be done to curb the trend.
Saturday’s ISWAP attack on the military convoy took place outside of Mafa, 44 kilometres (27 miles) north of Maiduguri.
“The terrorists fired an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) on the convoy which hit one of the vehicles with five soldiers in it,” one security source told AFP.
“All the five were killed.”
The insurgents seized two vehicles in the attack, said a second source who gave the same toll.
The jihadist group focuses on military targets, raiding bases, ambushing troops and planting mines on the roads, but recently they have been attacking and abducting civilians.
“The ISWAP terrorists who were dressed in military uniform stopped the vehicles. Some of the passengers fled into the bush while 35 were taken hostage,” a pro-government militia official said.
A woman was shot dead and several others were injured when the militants opened fire on those fleeing into the bush, he said.
Jakana, which lies along the 120-kilometre highway linking Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capital of neighbouring Yobe State, is an ISWAP stronghold.
Abduction of civilians by the jihadists in the area have been on the rise, prompting increased military deployments which have failed to end the abductions.
Efforts to get the military to respond to news of the attack were abortive last night, as calls and text messages to key military sources were neither taken nor replied to.
Dozens of children freed after new abduction in Katsina — police
Local vigilantes rescued dozens of schoolchildren abducted by bandits in Katsina State after a gun battle, police said, yesterday.
Gunmen had abducted about 80 children on Saturday as they returned to Mahuta village after having attended a religious ceremony, said spokesman, Gambo Isah, of Katsina State police.
The incident came barely 48 hours after the release of 344 schoolboys kidnapped from a boarding school by bandits and held for six days.
According to local residents, the number of children rescued following Saturday’s attack came to 113.
When the news spread across Mahuta, residents and vigilantes mobilised and went after the kidnappers, said Abdullahi Sada, leader of a local vigilante group.
They set off in pursuit of the gunmen, who had been identified as herdsmen.
“We laid siege on the area we knew they were holding the children and also took some Fulani settlements in the area hostage, warning that if anything happened to our children, no Fulani would live in the area henceforth.
“They released 60 children around 3am, and later, they called and said they had released the remaining 53 who are now being ferried from the bush,” he said.
The children, from various Islamic seminaries in the town, were travelling in the company of their teachers when they were kidnapped, said one of the teachers who gave his first name as Tijjani.
A source in the area, Sagir Dandume said his younger sister, was among the Islammiyya students kidnapped by the bandits but have since regained freedom.
Sagir said: “The students were in hundreds. They went to attend Maulud celebration in a neighbouring village. You know the tradition is during the Maulud celebration, the students reciprocate the gestures and often attend neighbouring villages’ celebration. So, it was on their way returning around Unguwa Babban Audu when they ran into the bandits, who had just finished attack from a village. They kidnapped some persons from the village and now joined the children among those the kidnapped earlier.
“So calls were put across to the neighbouring villages on the fresh attack which led all the people and vigilantes to come out and put the bandits in middle. And the victims were rescued. The rustled livestock too were rescued.
“After they were rescued by the local vigilantes, they slept in the bush and it was this morning that they returned home.”
Spokesperson, Katsina State Police Command, Gambo Isah, who confirmed the incident, said the security operatives and local vigilante engaged the bandits in a gun duel leading to the rescuing of 84 persons (80 students and four other persons earlier kidnapped by the bandits).
He said: “At 2200hrs on Saturday, a distress call was received by DPO Dandume that some Islamiyya Students of Hizburrahim Islamiyya, Mahuta village, Dandume LGA of Katsina State, numbering about 80, while on their way back from Maulud occasion celebrated at Unguwan Alkasim village, Dandume to Mahuta village, were accosted by bandits who had already kidnapped four persons and rustled 12 cows from Danbaure village, Funtua LGA, trying to escape into the forest.
“On receipt of the report, the DPO led Operations “Puff Adder, Sharan Daji and Vigilante group to the area and engaged the bandits into a fierce gun duel.
“Subsequently, the teams succeeded in dislodging the bandits and rescued all the 84 kidnapped victims and recovered all the 12 rustled cows. Search parties are still combing the area with a view to arrest the injured bandits and/or recover their dead bodies. Investigation is on going,” Isah added.
But the Defence headquarters, yesterday, said troops of Operation Hadarin Daji in conjunction with Police and local vigilante deployed at Dandume LGA of Katsina State were responsible for the rescue of scores of Islamiya Children who were abducted on Saturday night after attending a religious ceremony.
Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche in a statement, said: “In reaction to the distress call, troops quickly mobilized to the scene, laid ambush and blocked bandits’ route along Daudawa-Kadisau, Sheme Mairuwa and Unguwar Audu village.
“While patiently waiting for the bandits at the ambush and blocking position, troops established contact with bandits and engaged them.
“During the fierce battle, troops superior fire power forced bandits to abandon the children and the rustled cattle and fled in disarray into the forest.
“Troops thereafter, searched the general area and rescued the 39 kidnapped girls in addition to the recovery of 8 rustled cattle.
‘“The victims have been reunited with their families while the recovered cattle handed to the owners. Troops have dominated the general area with aggressive patrol to forestall further occurrence.
‘The Military High Command commends the gallant troops and other security agencies for their sustained successes. Equally the locals and vigilantes are hereby appreciated for the cooperation in tackling the insecurity in Katsina State.”
Four killed in S’Kaduna reprisal attacks
Military and police authorities have informed the Kaduna State Government that four persons have been killed in further reprisal attacks in Zangon-Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Saturday night.
Samuel Aruwan, Commissioner, Kadduna State Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, said, yesterday: “Troops under the auspices of Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, had earlier reported the killing of seven persons at Gora Gan in Zangon Kataf LGA and the counter-killing of seven herders at Ungwan Idi and Kasheku of Kauru LGA.
“An update from the military received Sunday morning (yesterday) informed the government that following clearance operations at Ungwan Gaiya, Ungwan Gimba and Ungwan Makama of Zangon Kataf council, three more corpses were recovered, two of which have been identified as follows: Noel Markus (35 years), Titus Thomas (32) and one unidentified herder .
“Two mobile phones were also recovered. The corpses and other valuables were handed over to the police for further investigation and analyses.
“The military also reported that one citizen was killed in Apimbu village of the same council. The deceased was identified as 35-year-old, Kambai Yohanna.
“The military confirmed that two houses were burnt in the Apimbu attack. In the meantime, troops of the Operation Safe Haven and Special Forces are still carrying out operations in Kauru and Zangon Kataf councils.”
Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who sent condolences to the families that lost their loved ones on behalf of Kaduna State Government, reiterated the need for aggrieved individuals and groups to seek recourse to the law instead of resorting to illegal and violent methods of settling grievances.
The governor commends security agencies, traditional and religious institutions, community leaders and other critical stakeholders who remain committed to the peace building efforts of the government, despite the challenging situation.
He thanked the military and police high commands for the deployment of more personnel to the two local government areas, towards enhancing security.
High rate of kidnapping in Nigeria worrisome — Archbishop Kaigama
Archbishop Kaigama in a radio interview, welcomed the release of 344 abducted schoolboys in Kankara Katsina, and of two Catholic priests in Abuja.
Recall that Fr Matthew Dajo was kidnapped while at home and held captive for 10 days, and Fr Valentine Ezeugu was released the day after he was abducted while on his way to his father’s funeral.
Kaigama said: “The good news is that all of them (the Kankara school boys and the priests) have been liberated.
“But the disturbing thing is that kidnapping has become a trend, it has become normal, a culture where one should expect bandits or kidnappers or criminals to come at any time, day or night: this is not acceptable.
“The people now live in fear. My priest was kidnapped when he was at home at 9 p.m., not on the road or in the bushes. This means that it was deliberate, it was calculated, and then they get away with it.”
He stressed that the authorities needed to step up the fight against terrorism, banditry and wanton destruction of property across the country.
“Unfortunately, we don’t see that happening. It is embarrassing and shameful that the news from Nigeria is always about these kidnappings and killings.
“However, we keep appealing to the authorities to do what is needed and we keep hoping the international community will also give a helping hand,” Kaigama said.
On security concerns during the Yuletide, the Archbishop said: “The Christmas season could be a time in which other attacks could happen because kidnappers are on the prowl and bandits operate freely and take the law into their hands.
“If priests and children can be taken from their homes or from schools, it means that when congregations gather for their worship at Christmas, anything could happen.”
Vanguard News Nigeria