Zamfara

The latest news in Nigeria now is that  over 200 people were killed and 10,000 displaced in attacks by armed Terrorists in the northwestern Nigerian state of Zamfara following military air raids on their hideouts last week.

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More than 200 bodies were buried, according to a spokesperson for Sadiya Umar Farouq, the minister of humanitarian affairs.

On Sunday, Nneka Ikem Anibeze said, “We are very saddened by this incessant invasion… and we are also concerned about the displaced persons who are fleeing in their hundreds from their communities.”

Farouq described the attacks in Zamfara state over the past week as “horrific and tragic,” providing the first official toll after details began to emerge early Saturday.

More than 10,000 people were displaced, according to the minister, when “Terrorists razed their homes, while scores remain missing.”

According to the state government, 58 people were killed in the attacks.

Video Credit: Aljazeera

Shooting ‘anyone on sight’

On Saturday, residents returned to their villages to plan mass burials.

On Monday, the military launched air strikes on targets in Zamfara’s Gusami forest and west Tsamre village, killing over 100 Terrorists , including two of their leaders.

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On Tuesday, more than 300 gunmen on motorcycles stormed eight villages in Zamfara’s Anka locality and began shooting indiscriminately, killing at least 30 people.

On Wednesday and Thursday, attackers stormed ten villages in the Anka and Bukkuyum districts, firing at residents and looting and torching homes.

The assailants were shooting “anyone on sight,” according to Babandi Hamidu, a resident of Kurfa Danya village.

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“We’re still looking for more bodies because there are so many people missing,” Hamidu told the AFP news agency.

President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement on Saturday that the military had acquired more equipment to track down and eliminate criminal gangs that have been terrorizing people, including by imposing illegal taxes on besieged communities.

“The latest bandit attacks on innocent people are a desperate act by mass murderers who are now under constant pressure from our military forces,” Buhari said.

Buhari also stated that the government will not back down in its military operations against armed gangs.

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Since late 2020, the government has struggled to maintain law and order in northwest Nigeria, which has seen a sharp increase in mass abductions and other violent crimes.

Terrorists made international headlines last year when they kidnapped hundreds of students in a series of high-profile attacks on schools and colleges. Although the majority of the students were released, a few remained in custody.

“Kidnapping is the fastest growing enterprise in Nigeria,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reported from Abuja. “Especially in the largely ungoverned territories in the northwestern part of the country, kidnapping is the fastest growing enterprise.”

Idris said bodies were still being found in Zamfara, some of which appeared to be mutilated or burned.

“As the security forces struggle to deal with the problem, the conflict is becoming more and more deadly,” Idris said, adding that the military’s resources are stretched thin as it responds to crises in 34 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

Farmers vs. herders

The origins of banditry can be traced back to conflicts between nomadic cattle herders and sedentary farmers over land and resources. However, tit-for-tat attacks have evolved into a larger criminal enterprise over time.

Since May of last year, Nigeria’s armed forces have killed 537 “armed Terrorists and other criminal elements” in the region, arrested 374 others, and rescued 452 “kidnapped civilians.”

Last month, ground and air raids on the camps of Terrorists loyal to notorious gang leader Bello Turji resulted in heavy losses.

Last week’s raids, according to security analyst Kabir Adamu of Abuja-based Beacon Consulting Nigeria, could have been in response to military operations.

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“Angered by this, and perhaps by the fact that they were facing certain death,” Adamu said, “they decided to move to other locations and appear to be conducting these attacks.”

Nigeria designated Terrorists as “terrorist” organizations, allowing for harsher penalties under the “terrorism” prevention act for suspected shooters, informants, and supporters, such as those caught supplying them with fuel and food.

Separately, gunmen released 30 Nigerian students who had been held captive for nearly seven months on Sunday.

On June 17, gunmen stormed their school in Birnin-Yauri, abducting students from Federal Government College in Kebbi, northwest Nigeria.

Local officials did not say how many people were missing, but residents said there were more than 70.

Video Credit: Aljazeera

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