Ali Kachalla, a known terror mastermind operating along the Dansadau axis of the enormous Kuyambana Forest, was responsible for the recent shooting down of a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet.
When the military jet was shot down with heavy artillery on June 18, no specifics regarding the occurrence were available from both official and unofficial sources, and nothing has been said since then.
While the downing of the plane was widely blamed on bandits, the term for armed outlaws who dominate large swaths of rural Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, and the Kebbi States, it was unclear which of the multiple kingpins straddling the region was involved.
However, after speaking with residents, security workers, and others who are familiar with what is going on in areas plagued by rural banditry, Daily Trust learned that Ali Kachalla, a cunning terrorist with a base in Kuyambana, was the mastermind of the massive operation.
In the North-West, Kachalla is often used as an honorific for bandit commanders. It was formerly a chieftaincy title in the Kanuri language.
Men from Kachalla’s gang shot down the fighter plane near Kabaru village, around 15 kilometres west of Dansadau town.
In a statement made at the time, NAF spokesman Edward Gabkwet claimed the plane was targeted while returning from an air interdiction mission between the states of Zamfara and Kaduna.
While no trace of the ill-fated plane has been found, the Air Force has released photographs of the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, who successfully evacuated from the plane.
Dairo ran for his life and was saved by locals who carried him to Dansadau, where he was evacuated by an Air Force helicopter, according to the Daily Trust.
Although shooting down the NAF plane was Kachalla’s most audacious act to date, his name has been on the lips of villagers in the volatile Dansadau district in recent months. He has carried out several savage attacks on residents of the neighbourhood, with a particular fondness for ambushing military personnel.
Ali Kachalla is being unveiled.
Ali Kachalla, a youthful bandit commander in Kuyambana Forest, commands around 200 armed men. The forest borders the states of Zamfara, Kebbi Kaduna, and Niger.
Those who knew him to say he was born into a herder family in Madada, a hamlet near Dansadau. He’s in his early thirties, according to reports.
According to a source familiar with the area, Kachalla’s present base is located along the bank of the River Goron Dutse, roughly 25 kilometres south of Dansadau town.
The Goron Dutse River runs across the Kaduna-Zamfara state line, with parts of it in Kaduna and the rest in Zamfara.
“On the Birnin Gwari side of the river, he has a village consisting of many strings of thatched cottages. But his main herd of cattle, guarded by his heavily armed guys, is based in Zamfara State, according to a source in the area who requested anonymity.
“As I speak with you, his boys can be located in the communities of Dandalla, Madada, and Gobirawa Kwacha. The villages are all located southeast of the town of Dansadau. The armed men are in charge of them all,” the source explained.
Kachalla’s soldiers have been laying ambushes for security officers for a long time and are known as “fearless fighters.” His gang’s members are estimated to outweigh those in other gangs in the area.
Kachalla has increased his attacks on Dansadau town in recent months in response to the town’s refusal to supply him with supplies and the locals’ assistance in the escape of a military pilot he sought to capture alive. After chasing security personnel deployed to the area, his men set fire to an Armoured Personnel Carrier in one of the strikes.
“After local shops refused to supply food to Kachalla and his boys, the Dansadau community has enraged him,” one insider stated. “Some unscrupulous individuals among the local traders continue to supply bread, soft drinks, and other supplies to the forest bandits.”
Residents of the neighbourhood recently staged a protest against business transactions, obstructing businesses’ attempts to interact with the criminals.
Security personnel have increased their attempts to apprehend suspected informants in coordination with local citizens. The Daily Trust said last week that 22 potential spies were apprehended in the town, with one of them burning himself on fire.
Buharin Daji’s death and Ali Kachalla’s ascension
When Buharin Daji, a legendary bandit, was killed by fellow outlaws in March 2018, a number of his lieutenants stepped forward to take over the mantle. His assailant, Dogo Gide, and Ali Kachalla were among the Buharin Daji allies who gained renown.
Despite their friendship, sources say the two maintain separate groups, with Gide roving through the woodlands from one location to another and Kachalla remaining stationary on the outskirts of Zamfara.
Kachalla groomed his soldiers, breaking the barrier into non-Fulani communities, in addition to benefiting from members of the old Buharin Daji clan.
“Many Hausa youngsters, including many residents of Dansadau town, have gone to join his organisation, and they are with him in the forest,” our source revealed.
While Kachalla may appear unstoppable, he is believed to have been defeated by security forces on several occasions and in at least one confrontation with a prominent Ansaru commander in the North-West, Mallam Abba, in which Kachalla lost roughly 30 men.
Despite his ascent to notoriety as a result of the personnel and arms cache he controls, Ali Kachalla remains a dark figure who is difficult to photograph or film.
While the leaders of some bandits are known to communicate with villagers and even attend marketplaces in select regions, Kachalla and the majority of the prominent bandits operating near Kuyambana avoid any direct contact with the outside world.
One villager described him as a “very tough person,” a “hardliner.” “I’ve met Kachalla Sale, his uncle. The latter had travelled to Gusau and even Kaduna for peace talks, but Ali (Kachalla) was not present at any of them.
“This isn’t to claim that Kachalla and his gang are the only ones operating in Dansadau. Other bandit commanders include Dogo Gide, Sani Mochoko, Sani Buta, Danmakaranta, Damina, and others, according to one source, but Kachalla, according to many sources, is currently the most ruthless, eclipsing his old comrade Gide.
Consider their actions an affront and treat them as terrorists.
The downing of the military jet, according to Idayat Hassan, Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), demonstrates the vulnerability of Nigeria’s military jets and infrastructure.
“The terrorists orchestrated the incident to terrify and compel Nigeria into meeting their demands. It was an attack that demonstrated their strength. But, happily, the airman filed; otherwise, the criminals would have received a lot of attention, and civilians’ trust in the government would have been eroded.”
“It is worrisome that terrorists possess such lethal weaponry to knock down a military jet,” said the CDD executive director, who has examined insecurity in the northern regions.
She claimed that the attack’s success would encourage them to try more daring strikes in the future.
“This attack may also solidify Ali Kachalla’s position as a bandit’s leader among leaders, providing other bandits with the urge to shoot down more military planes. These terrorist tactics are adaptable; in the past, they built shelters and taught their wards how to dive and defend cows from airstrikes.
“Bringing down a military plane necessitates a total shift in policy, and the government must regard the pilots as terrorists. Nigeria must admit that it is once again embroiled in a non-international armed struggle in the North West, and it must proceed to pursue and deal with the terrorists appropriately. It is unwelcome to have a situation where a group of people may take Nigeria and her people hostage. Nigeria should be concerned about the merging of these terror groups with ISWAP and other Islamist organisations at this point, she said.
How to deal with him — Security analyst
The incident, according to security analyst Kabiru Adamu, was ominous, having repercussions for local security and international ties, particularly aviation. He was surprised that the military, which revealed last year that it had information on bandits stockpiling military-grade weapons, did not take measures to prevent the weapons from being used against its forces.
“There are three things that are vital when it comes to dealing with Kachalla,” Adamu stated. Let me begin with intelligence; intelligence is critical because it tells you what, where, how, when, and who you need to know.
“Intelligence operatives will respond to all of these questions, and the information gained will be utilised to carry out a targeted operation against him. This leads to the second point, precision attack. All of our armed security departments have tactical units. A tactical unit was used to extract a US citizen who had been kidnapped in Niger and bring him to Sokoto. So why do we have tactical units that are incapable of carrying out tactical missions?”
Adamu advocated for the tactical squads to be properly equipped with specialised weapons, vehicles, and other tools to enable them to complete their mission.
“There are a lot of concerns among Nigerians about the occurrence right now, and we are a community of nations; no country in the world will hear anything like this and not change their relationship with us.”
According to the security specialist, if the attackers are successful in shooting down a military plane, commercial flights could be in jeopardy as well.
“As a result, certain countries will not like this development, will analyse it, and will most likely advise their companies not to go down this path, which will have a negative impact on Nigeria.
“That development has a lot of ramifications; it’s simple for the military to say our plane was shot down; what’s crucial is to state how it was shot down and if they know what weapon was used to shoot it down. It will go a long way toward easing the current tensions in the minds of many Nigerians.”
Credit: Daily Trust
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