Troops of the Nigerian Army and operatives of the Nigerian Police Force in Kontagora Local Government Area of Niger State have eliminated no fewer than seven bandits in a dense forest on the outskirt of the town.
Lieutenant Colonel T.O. Olukukun, the Commanding Officer of the 311 Artillery Regiment, and Police Commander Haruna Adamu Swapo are said to have led their troops from different axes in a coordinated operation.
The bandits were fleeing after they invaded the farm of Mai Sudan (Emir) of Kontagora at Masuga village, and killed Prince Bashir Namaska, a son of the Emir on Thursday.
However, a battalion of ground troops and policemen, deployed for a “swift response operation”, pursued the bandits to a thick forest, before they shot and neutralised some of them.
The rest, however, escaped with gunshot injuries.
One of the injured bandits captured by troops who later died could neither speak Hausa nor English, but Fulfulde, a foreign dialect, PRNigeria learnt.
The bandits who attacked the Kontagora Emir’s farm that led to Prince Namaska’s death came through a large expanse of land, which belongs to the Nigerian Army.
A top security officer claimed that the massive land, spanning about 40km and not fully utilised or occupied by the military harbours camps of armed bandits terrorising Niger State.
The bandits established their camps at Matan Kari, Fagai, Ozowo, Bihima and Kan Libo, among other mountains inside the army land.
The intelligence source said: “The camps are mountainous areas, within the massive hectare, where the criminals first gather their abducted victims, before moving them to Kaduna, Zamfara and the other Northern States, via forests’ paths.
“They are also being used by bandits operating within the axis to congregate herds of rustled cattle, before ferrying them beyond the State’s borders.
“The ‘flat and levelled surfaces’ on top of the mountains is where a yet-to-be-identified private helicopter often allegedly sighted by local people.
“The huge army land, which starts from the military Barrack in Kontagora town, extends over to the Mai Guge community, in Mariga local government.
“It is almost 40km in length.”
Another seasoned intelligence officer working for a security agency in Kontagora, who declined to give his name, said: “The unfenced and porous’ army land is the reason why over 500 bandits have been having a field day invading communities, and wreaking havoc, across parts of Niger East.
“The aircraft from Nigerian Air Force should therefore be dispatched to bomb the areas because innocent citizens don’t longer live within the vicinity of forest that has been left fallow over the years by the military.
“As you may be aware, the bandits’ camps also served as escape routes for the criminals when other security personnel are mobilised for counter and rescue operations.
“As I am talking with you right now, the bandits and the rustled cows are in identified locations.”
A top military officer in Abuja has confirmed that the Nigerian Army and the NAF are working assiduously on new strategies to tackle the menace of banditry in Niger State.
“The Nigerian military is making efforts to conduct operations that will hunt every criminal in that forest,” the officer who pleaded anonymity said.