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7 KILLED, 150 kidnapped as Terror Group Expands Territory in Niger

Ansaru in Death Match with Bandits on One hand and Army on Other for Stronghold

By Luka Binniyat and Mike Odeh

(Kaduna) – The Ansaru insurgency, in an expansion drive,  struck northern Niger State Friday (May 23), killing 7 and abducting  150  in Kuchi village, Munya County, according to security experts speaking  exclusively to Truth Nigeria.

A highly organized attack for three solid hours during a driving rainstorm  was the work of Ansaru – an Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda that emerged in 2012 in Nigeria. The group seeking a Caliphate by winning hearts and minds of locals while butchering agents of government  has preyed on Munya and Shiroro county in Niger State for years. Ansaru today  battles large kidnap-for-ransom groups  to take control of large swaths of ungoverned areas once controlled by the feared Dog Gide’s gangs of kidnappers.

Google Map above shows that town of Kuchi is equidistant between Minna and Abuja and close to the densely forest border between Kaduna and Niger States.
Google Map above shows that town of Kuchi is equidistant between Minna and Abuja and close to the densely forest border between Kaduna and Niger States.

Dogo Gide, who tops the list of most wanted bandits in Nigeria, is said to have died of gunshot wounds March 14 in an undisclosed hospital in Sokoto State, North West Nigeria, but no official confirmation to that has been made public.

“With Dogo Gide’s death there is a fierce struggle to control all those bushes, hills valleys and that covers part of Munya, Shiroro and Mariga Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Niger State,” said Navy Captain Umar Bakori (retired), President of Vigilante Groups of Nigeria, in an exclusive Chat with TruthNigeria.

“Part of Chikun and Birnin Gwari LGAs and all that part of the Kamuku and Kuyamba Forest Reserves that runs to Katsina and Zamfara State and hundreds of farming  communities were controlled and run by bandit gangs loyal to Dogo Gide,” he said.

“Apart from steady inflow of ransom money, he also extracts tax from farmers if they must farm and harvest peacefully,” he said.

“But in recent times, Nigerian troops and Nigeria Air Force have succeeded in giving Gide’s gangs heavy casualties and have degraded them in their strongholds of Zamfara, Katsina and these areas of Kaduna state. So they have those areas of Niger State as their last stronghold,” he added.

“For the Kuchi attack, it is definitely the Ansaru group that was bombarded from Kaduna state that is moving into Niger State.

“They look at Niger as a safety option and place than Kaduna state.

However, during the invasion, a Joint Security Force (without the military) faced 300 insurgents and killed 25 without the assistance of Nigerian Army troops, according to Chairman of Munya County, Malam Aminu Najume, speaking to news sources over the weekend.

Kuchi is about 45 miles Southeast of Minna, Niger’s State capital, and about 41 miles Northwest of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and inhabited by both Koro and Gbagyi Christians, who constitute 90 percent of the estimated 177,500 population of Munya County.

300 Terrorists Operated for Hours under rain

Najume also confirmed that those killed included four Joint Task Force, three vigilantes (civilian volunteer guards who used locally made single-shot pipe guns).

However, he said the Joint Task l composed of Mobile Police,  Nigerian Civil Defence, and civil volunteer guards) stationed in the area saved lives by killing over 25 of the terrorists in a gun duel, the Blueprint report added.

“The gunmen invaded the community at about 7:00 pm in groups, numbering about 300 as it was raining.

 The terrorists moved from house-to-house often seeking specific persons by name in a technique reported by TruthNigeria on a mass kidnapping in Gonin Gora on Feb. 28. The hostages, two-thirds women, were led away in the rain, Blueprint reported.

Number of injured still uncertain

“Look at [the recent] attack, the bandits operated for over three hours, there was no reinforcement from anywhere. They outnumbered the Joint Security Taskforce and succeeded in killing four of them, including some vigilantes. We cannot ascertain the number of people that were injured because some are still in the bush, they slept there,” Najume said to Blueprint

The invaders reportedly looted all the shops in the community and went away with all the goods and drinks.

Domination of ungoverned spaces

Retired Nigerian Navy Captain Umar Bakori. credit: Umar Bakori.
Retired Nigerian Navy Captain Umar Bakori. credit: Umar Bakori.

According to Umar, the primary objective of the terrorists is to dominate ungovernable territories and expand their influence.

“Ansaru, which has been hibernating among some communities of those LGAs that I have mentioned and indoctrinating protecting them from Gide’s bandits have also suffered attacks in their open camps in Kaduna state, but not as severe as Dogo Gide.

Internal War Among Terrorists

“They have suddenly seen the advantage of taking control of Munya and Shiroro LGAs.

“There is an ongoing bloody war among remnants of gangs of Gide, Ansaru and Boko Haram and ISWAP in those enclaves,” he added.

“But Ansaru seems to hold the upper hand because they have more men now by recruiting more locals and getting funding from abroad and within Nigeria,” he went on.

“The attack on Kuchi was  to stockpile supplies of food and essentials, capture hostages for ransom and for slave work. And most importantly to leave a message that they are now in control,” he said.

To counter this threat, the government should bolster the strength of its security forces and recruit additional local vigilante personnel to man the border areas between Kaduna and Niger States.

“There are known camps of both Ansaru and ISWAP militants along the border regions of Kaduna and Niger States. To neutralize these threats, helicopter gunships should be deployed to take them out. The military’s success in Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna States should be replicated in Niger State to prevent the terrorists from regrouping and wreaking havoc in the region,” he added.

Troops Overstretched for flimsy reasons

 Former Niger State Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Dr. Emmanuel Aude agreed with the submission of Umar, adding that the Nigerian Armed forces have been overstretched.

“That Kuchi that was attacked is in Munya LGA,” he observed exclusively to Truth Nigeria on phone from Minna.

“Munya is one of the LGA that we thought we have secured back to normalcy because it has been quite there for a long time now,” he added.

“But recently there has been heightened terrorist attacks on communities in Shiroro LGA and it spilled into Munya.

The attack on Kuchi is to take advantage of the strategic location of Munya by Ansaru and possibly by ISWAP and bandits fleeing bombings from Chikun in Kaduna state.

“Munya borders Chikun and Birnin Gwari in Kaduna state. There are a lot of ungoverned spaces there, and Nigerian troops are taking out most camps of these criminals, so they are fighting among themselves and looking for new areas to control in Niger State,” he added.

“The problem is that the Nigeria Military is over stretched and pulled for frivolous duties.

“Why should the Army take large numbers of soldiers to Kano over an Emirship tussle between two cousins  when you have so much security challenges in vulnerable areas?” he queried.

“And the military pulling out after it suffered casualties from an ambush signifies to the terrorists that troops are facing defeat. Their pullout in Allawa (Shiroro County) in April this year encouraged the terrorists to return and wreak havoc on that area.

Kuchi Defenders Announce Readiness

According to findings by Truth Nigeria, Kuchi is largely deserted, as virtually all women, children and aged and ailing persons have moved to Gwada, Zumba and bigger settlements until security improves.

“We are expecting them (terrorists) to return for more attacks because we also dealt with them,” said a local source who does not want his identity revealed for his safety.

‘So far, they have not contacted any family members of the kidnapped persons,” he said.

“We are waiting for them, and we are ready this time” he added.

Luka Binniyat is a veteran conflict reporter for TruthNigeria.

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