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Exclusive: 17 Gonin Gora Hostages Seen Crossing Kaduna River into Niger State Bandit Refuge

Kaduna Residents Charge Security Forces with Malfeasance

By Truth Nigeria Reporters

(Kaduna) – Terrorist-kidnappers have marched  17 hostages pulled from their homes in Gonin Gora, near Kaduna City,  35 miles  south into the infamous terrorist stronghold  in Niger State close to Shiroro Dam, TruthNigeria has learned from credible sources.  The hostages include men and women carrying babies on their backs, according to citizen guards in Chikun County’s forest who tracked the column for more than a day.

 The dense forest in northeastern Niger State is an ungoverned space home to numerous bandit gangs including the mercenaries loyal to crime kingpin Dogo Gide and armed forces of the Boko Haram insurgency. The most notorious Fulani bandits have taken over hundreds square miles of land as their fiefdom.

The attack on Gonin Gora began at 11 p.m. Wednesday night and lasted for up to four hours, as reported by TruthNigeria March 1. Two civilian guards lost their lives repelling the attackers who retreated into scrub forest west of the city around 4:00 a.m. on Thursday. The civilian guards wanted to pursue the band of kidnappers estimated to have 50 armed men, but  said they were overwhelmed by the firepower of assault weapons. Nigerian security men refused to join, according to guards who spoke to TruthNigeria. Official accounts from the State Commissioner on Security contradicted the claims of locals and insisted that the police and army acted promptly to defend the town.  

“On Thursday afternoon, we noticed heavily armed Fulanis moving from Kudenda Forest toward Garu,  also called Galu,” said Amos Bahago, a member of the local civilian guards (dubbed “vigilantes”) who lives in Danya Village about 15 miles west of Gonin Gora, to Truthnigeria.

“From there, we tracked them to Kurmin Kaduna as they kept moving towards the Kaduna River. There is nothing we can do than just watch them move as we follow them secretly until they arrive around Chikun Village,” Bahago said. “It was there that they moved to Garu which is a small village just very close to Chikun village by the river. It is from there that we saw them cross a shallow side of the river, and they emerged around Kaure, a small town in Niger State not far from Shiroro Dam,” Bahago said.

“We saw them. The women were carrying babies on their backs, and the men had their hands tied to their backs. The Fulani were much more in numbers. And we are almost certain that they were those kidnapped from Gonin Gora,” according to Bahago.

Military Nowhere Seen as Hostages Marched to Bandit Stronghold

Hostage: Mr. Sunday Iremin, resident of Gonin Gora, who was kidnapped by terrorists on the night of Feb. 28 along with his wife and four of his children.  His seven-year old daughter, Helen, escaped or was released by the kidnappers and was found wandering in the forest alone that night. photo courtesy of Ehis Adouna.
Hostage: Mr. Sunday Iremiren, resident of Gonin Gora, who was kidnapped by terrorists on the night of Feb. 28 along with his wife and four of his children. His seven-year old daughter, Helen, escaped or was released by the kidnappers and was found wandering in the forest alone that night. photo courtesy of Ehis Adouna.

Bahago  said his team informed all their usual contacts in the military. He added that the military knew all the paths taken by the terrorists to all the forests in Kaduna and Niger State.

“The soldiers and those mobile police and the Kaduna state government know the paths that these bandits use very well. There are times that they come up to our place, and we set up an ambush for the terrorists and kill some of them,” he said.

“At times, after giving them information, we see those tiny flying things (drones) fly over the paths used by the terrorists,” he said.

“So, they are very well familiar with the path taken by the Fulani bandits. And I believe that in this kidnapping, both the army and Kaduna state government are not interested in rescuing the victims, because we gave all of them the information we usually give when we see them pass our villages with their victims,” he said.

Two brutalized youths still under military custody

“Two people were arrested from the peaceful protest on Thursday morning and till now they are not yet back,” said Baba.

“We don’t know what their offense was other than to say that their communities were attacked, and the military did not know about it,” he said.

Dangana Baba gave the names of those arrested as Samuel Marcus and Chawaza Dung .

According to him, they were beaten up, pushed around and then hit with rifle butts after they were arrested during Thursday’s peaceful demonstration against Wednesday’s invasion.

Attempts by Truthnigeria to confirm the true state of things from the military and Commissioner for security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan,  about the youths proved abortive as the Army Public Relations Officer For Division 1 refused to answer calls.  Samuel Aruwan also refused to pick calls even though the arrest took place in his presence and by his approval.   

Blaming the Victims

During the two-hour long  protest on Thursday morning  the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway was blocked by a line of small curbstones and rocks.  The Commissioner of Security announced in a press release that he came on scene to reopen the highway, calling the roadblock a “menace.”

With no expressions of empathy for families who lost loved ones in the attack or relatives marched into the forest, the statement points out this:

“The members of the Kaduna State Security Council while interacting with community leaders, expressed dissatisfaction with the menace of blocking roads, a situation which infringes on the rights of citizens and travelers using these roads and other public utilities,” the statement read in conclusion.

The Press statements further states:  “The Kaduna State Security Council has warned against blockage of public roads and harassment of innocent citizens by persons conducting protests.

“This follows the blockage of the Gonin Gora axis of the Kaduna-Abuja Road by some protesters on Thursday morning, in response to reports of a bandit attack in Unguwan Auta of Gonin Gora general area, Chikun Local Government Area(county) thus denying commuters access through the route,” according to Aruwan’s statement.

Gonin Gora is one of Kaduna town Christian’s strongholds in a city that has been divided by a blurred green line between Muslim and Christians after decades of intermittent violence in the secular town of about 1.2 million has led to thousands of deaths.

Sources from Layin Fumigi, New Nigeria and Aguwan Auta  parts of Gonin Gora who gave gave hindsight into the attack said that  for over 4 hours when Fulani bandits attacked the communities, the Nigerian military and police did not show up nor respond to their distress calls and  text message. That the military personnel only arrived four hours after the armed Fulani terrorists had carried out the crime and had left with only poorly armed vigilantes standing up to them and were able to frustrate them from causing much havoc to the community.

‘We responded on time and made rescues:’ Nigerian Army

The Nigerian Military, however, insisted that it responded on time and helped to rescue three victims from the terrorists, a claim that the residents of  Gonin Gora denied.

A military source who spoke to TruthNigeria and pleaded that his name is not mentioned said that he was part of the operation that night.

“The way civilians see things and do things is different from our ways. We don’t go from street to street saying this is what we have done, but we responded in good time, that was why the bandits ran away. We even rescued three victims,” he said.

“Those that were rescued were the efforts of our boys in the vigilante, not the military” Dangana Baba told Truthnigeria.

Grieving: Family of slain civilian guard, Thomas Illiya. Mrs. Thomas Illiya seen the day after the attack with her eldest son, Luis, 8, and Wisdom, 18 months. photo by TruthNigeria Staff.
Grieving: Family of slain civilian guard, Thomas Illiya. Mrs. Thomas Illiya seen the day after the attack with her eldest son, Luis, 8, and Wisdom, 18 months. photo by TruthNigeria Staff.

“It was our boys that pursued the bandits and is the cause some two of them were killed,” Baba said.  Two civilian guards were killed in the attack, including Mr. Thomas Illiya. The other guard killed has not been identified.

“During the pursuit, some of the victims were abandoned by the bandits and one escaped making them three,” Baba said. “It was our vigilante that got them back just for the military to take them over and start claiming glory,” he argued.

There is a Forward Operation base of the Nigeria military on the Gonin Gora – Abuja by-pass less than half a mile from where the bandits struck, TruthNigeria can confirm.

At approximately 11 pm that Wednesday, Feb. 28, more than 200 community residents mobilized themselves led by volunteer citizen guards using home fabricated single shotguns, machetes, clubs and stones and faced the heavily bandits.

“The Fulani men were operating in groups and were going from house to house forcing people out and making them lie down. The sound of the guns was causing serious fear, and we could only hide and either shoot occasionally at them or shout out loud that people should leave their houses and come out to safety,” said a vigilante requesting anonymity.

“Some of were going from compound to compound gathering women and children and directing them to safer areas where they can run to before the terrorists arrived, that is why they met some compounds empty,” | he said.

“It was like we were acting in a film. But the screaming of the women and children who were captured  I can never forget,” he said.

Dueling Accounts as to Whether Nigerian Army Failed to Arrive to Defend the Town

“The military showed up after the terrorists retreated into the bushes with a few of us pursuing them,” said Dangana Baba, a sub-chief from Unguwan Auta to TruthNigeria. 

“Though we were angry that the military only showed up late, we nonetheless told them that we were ready to lead them to the direction that the terrorists followed and that since we were in our hundreds, young and healthy were sure to catch up with them if the military would back us up,” he said.

According to him, the military refused, saying that they were not given orders from their superior officers to pursue the bandits.

“How can you convince us in Gonin Gora that the late arrival of the military and their refusal to take advantage of our volunteers to go after the bandits is not because they are all working with the bandits?” Baba asked.

“Personally, I begged them that there is still time to rescue, since we  could hear the cries of kidnapped babies and mothers far away in the dark night,” said Dangana Baba, a sub-chief from Unguwan Auta  parts of Gonin Gora that was affected.

 “But they just stood by and kept vigil in the communities, occasionally harassing some of our youths who were voicing out their disappointments,” he said.

“It was the community that took the wounded to the hospital. It was like the soldiers were just there to ensure that the Fulani got away with our people safely,” he said.

Report filed by a team of investigators both in Nigeria and the United States.

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