Troops under the Operation Whirl Punch have neutralised 14 bandits and recovered 422 cows and sheep between October and November, the acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig.-Gen. John Agim, said on Monday in Kaduna
Agim told a news conference on Operation 777 update, launched by the Defence Headquarters on Oct. 8 to restructure and strengthen ongoing military operations nationwide.
According to him, operation Whirl Punch being conducted by troops of 1 Division of the Nigerian Army is part of Operation 777.
He said that “prior to the launch of Operation 777, terrorists and criminals devised different means of evading ongoing operations in different theatres.
“So far, however, troops have neutralised 14 notorious bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers.
“Likewise, several sophisticated arms, ammunition and large herds of cattle have been recovered from the bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
“The troops also recovered over 331 cows from rustlers in Birnin Gwari area and 132 cows in Birnin Yero areas of Kaduna State.
“A total of 49 cows and 42 sheep were also recovered on the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway: all recovered animals were handed over to their owners after screening.”
The spokesman further disclosed that 31 persons (18 children and 13 adults) were rescued from kidnappers within the area of operation.
He said “during the period, five bandits and two informants were also arrested and they were currently assisting security agencies in ongoing investigation.
“Unfortunately, two soldiers were wounded and currently receiving treatment at military hospital in Kaduna.”
Agim added that two civilian vigilance group members assisting troops in the operation were killed in action by bandits’ fire.
He said 18 AK47 rifles, two pistols, three mobile phones, one motorola, large cache of ammunition and 32 motorcycles were recovered from suspects.
He added that Operation Whirl Punch being conducted by the 1 Division was to provide security and restore normalcy on Kaduna-Abuja expressway, Birnin Gwari and its environs, as well as Niger.
He explained that those areas were once devastated by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and cattle rustlers.
The DDI said in preparation for the conduct of the operation, additional platforms, establishment of new military/police formations/units and injection of more troops were carried out by the defence headquarters to ensure the success of the operation.
“There is Nigerian Army Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Birnin Gwari, which will soon metamorphose into 98 Battalion in line with 2016 Nigeria Army Order Of Battle.’’
According to Agim, the general areas where our troops operate are characterised by thick forests such as the Kamuku, Kuduru, Birnin Gwari and Alawa forests.
The areas, he said also had several high grounds, which bandits and kidnappers use as staging areas and camps to perpetrate their heinous acts.
He, however, said that to surmount those terrain challenges, the defence headquarters had devised ingenious ways of deploying troops and conducting operations.
“Through these special operations, relative peace has been restored and hence, the troops dominate the operating environment, thereby creating safe and conducive atmosphere for socio-economic activities to thrive.
“It is evident that, now the local traders, motorists, residents of villages/settlements in these general areas are conducting their businesses mostly unmolested.
“The returned of relative peace and security was made possible through joint operations and synergy of efforts by the security agencies and cooperative posture of the locals and vigilante groups.
Agim also spoke on the recent allegation of killing 74 cows belonging to Fulanis at Riyawa in Sabon Birni area.
“The Riyawa general area has been notorious as a den of bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers. Severally, troops had encounters with the bandits who use the difficult terrain and knowledge of the ground to escape.’’
He explained that on Nov 17, based on intelligence, troops conducted a raid on bandits’ camps in the area.
“The observed current practice of the bandits is to use their cows as shield to escape while firing at troops.
“This was the case on 17 November which was not a deliberate act by the troops to kill the cows.
He assured the law abiding citizens that the armed force and other security agencies would continue to ensure the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians.