Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Defence Headquarters yesterday said its operations launched to wipe out banditry, kidnapping and robbery in the North West part of the country have killed 132 armed bandits, recovered 39 firearms and 2,437 rounds of ammunitions between May and July.
Director, Defence Information, Colonel Onyema Nwachuku, who made this known at a media briefing held at the Defence Headquarters, said over 25 suspected bandits were also arrested during the period, while 14 motorcycles used by the bandits to carry out the nefarious activities were impounded.
He said all the arrested suspects, who are currently in military custody, would be handed over to the appropriate prosecuting agencies as soon as investigation is concluded.
Nwachuku further stated that 2,278 rustled cattle have been recovered and returned to their respective owners, while troops have dominated all perceived flash points with aggressive land and aerial patrols to deny the bandits free movement.
The Defence spokesman, who listed the DHQ operations to include Operation Hadaran Daji and Thunder Strike, said aside killing and arresting bandits, troops have equally rescued over 50 kidnapped victims from various fortified enclaves in Zamfara and contiguous states.
According to him, “since inception, troops of Operation Hadaran Daji have recorded strings of successes against the criminals, including a daring rescue operation in which troops neutralised 54 armed bandits in an encounter in fortified enclaves in Moriki, Madada and Dumburum forests in Zamfara State. Several assorted firearms were also recovered from the bandits.
“It will suffice to mention that in the last two months, since the commencement of the joint operations, the gallant troops of Operation Hadaran Daji have, in series of successful encounters, rescued over 50 kidnapped victims and neutralised about 78 armed bandits from various fortified enclaves in Zamfara and contiguous states.
“The troops have also recovered a total of 39 firearms, which include 16-AK 47 rifles, one Light Machine Gun, 14 Dane guns, two pump action rifles, 3 semi-automatic rifles, 3 pistols and 2,437 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition. Additionally, over 25 suspected armed bandits have been arrested and recovered 14 motorcycles used by them. The bandits are currently undergoing preliminary investigations, after which they will be handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies.
“On the realization that bandits were generating financial resources through cattle rustling to fund their criminality, troops of OPHD also embarked on anti-cattle rustling operations, which led to the interception and stalling of cattle rustling activities. This culminated in the recovery of 2,278 cows, which have been duly returned to their respective owners.
“Presently, the troops are jointly dominating flashpoints with aggressive land and aerial patrols, amongst others to deny the bandits freedom of action. It should not go without mention, that the aggressive operations of the joint troops of OPHD has restored some sanity in the security situation in Zamfara and its environ, which has dovetailed into the ongoing peace process and reconciliatory engagements in the region.”
Nwachuku, while listing the achievements of the operations set up to tackle kidnapping, bandits, cattle rustlers, and other criminal activities along major highways and adjoining villages around Kaduna-Abuja axis, said the operation has so far recorded tremendous successes, as several suspected kidnappers and bandits have been arrested, with arms and ammunition recovered from the criminals in the last 2 months of operation.
He said: “In the conduct of the operations, troops of JTF OPTS were able to identify a number of black spots along Abuja-Kaduna highway, such as Jere, Katare, Rijana, Kurmi-karshi, Gidan-mamman Black-gold and Gidan-guza, where criminals unleashed attacks on unsuspecting and innocent road users.
According to him, “premised on this discovery, troops embarked on series of fighting patrols to dominate the highway and rail line.
“Cordon and search operations were also carried out to mop up illegally acquired firearms in the hands of identified criminal gangs, while security escorts were provided for farmers and road users. These operations led to the successful interception and arrest of 14 suspected kidnappers, while six bandits were neutralized.
“In a unique occurrence, troops while on aggressive patrol along Abuja-Kaduna highway discovered a group of bandits dressed in military camouflage who would have been ordinarily perceived by unsuspecting members of the public as military personnel on routine checks along the highway mounted an illegal road block. The courageous troops moved tactically to the scene, engaged them in a fire fight and neutralized the bandits”
The Defence spokesman used the occasion to reassure Nigerians of the determination of the military to guaranteeing their safety and security at all times even as he called on all to provide credible inform that would lead to arrest of criminals.