Indications emerged yesterday that bandits loyal to notorious terror kingpin, Bello Turji, are under intense pressure over aggressive air strikes on their enclaves by the Nigerian Air Force.
They are also complaining bitterly about ban on sales of fuel in jerry cans and prolonged closure of markets especially that of Shinkafi town.
Some of the kidnapped victims freed by the bandits’ leader revealed these to Daily Trust yesterday shortly after arriving at the state police command.
Ahmad Abdulrazak, who was kidnapped along Kaura Namoda-Shinkafi-Sabon Birni Road, said he spent 32 days in captivity and was taken to a camp being operated by the Turji’s boys.
“On several occasions fighter jets would come and we would see the armed men running for their dear lives. They would abandon us where we were assembled in chains and take cover in caves near one giant rock.
“I can’t count the number of times such jets came hovering over our heads probably looking for the armed men to bomb. We were intensively praying so that we would not be mistaken for bandits.
“In fact, on one occasion, shortly after the jet bombarded Turji’s residence and left, they quickly came and untied us so that we would not be caught by the huge flames triggered by the attack.
“After one air raid, we saw some of them evacuate one of their wounded friends to a cave near that rock. Turji’s Almajiri school was hit by a canon or rocket fired by one fighter jet. We heard some of them said Turji had ordered that N2million be set aside for his medical treatment.
“We were beginning to understand that the wounded person was very important to them. Turji’s residence has also been destroyed after the air attack. In fact, this aerial bombardment is their greatest undoing. They intensely fear the coming of military fighter jet more than anything else,” he said.
Another victim corroborated this account when he said he heard the criminals conversing and saying that no soldier can come to forest to attack them.
He quoted one of the men as saying, “We have heard that authorities are planning to send ground forces to drive us away. They should not make that mistake. Even if we are out gunned or outnumbered by the ground troops, they will be forced to limp away in defeat because of our vast knowledge of the terrains in this forest.”
It was further learnt from the freed captives that Turji and his boys were planning to relocate from the area owing to the constant aerial attacks by the Nigerian Air Force. However, nobody could tell exactly where the cattle rustling kingpin and his lieutenants were moving to.
Another freed victims who simply identified himself as Murtala said 12 of them were kidnapped along Shinkafi Road on their way from Lagos and had spent a month in captivity.
He said they suffered a lot in the hands of the men adding that only four of them managed to escape leaving behind eight of them.
“We were beaten regularly and not allowed to cover ourselves from the freezing cold especially at nights. We were always in chains with one of them guarding us. It was really a terrible experience.
“On the very day we were to be released, we had no idea about what was happening. One of them clad in military uniform came and told us that we would breathe the air of freedom.
“He ordered one teenager to start loosening the chains on our hands and legs one by one. He brought a bunch of keys and started unlocking the padlocks attached to the chains. As he was doing so, he was warning us that no one should try to escape and that anyone caught would be shot dead immediately,” Murtala said.
The fatigued and haggard looking victims then trudged and boarded waiting buses lined up inside the headquarters of the state police command from where they were taken to hospitals for medical checkup.
Earlier, the state police commissioner, Ayuba N Elkanah, in a press briefing said joint tactical operatives in Shinkafi and Tsafe LGAs, had “unconditionally rescued” 97 kidnapped victims including 7 pregnant women, 19 two to seven months old babies and 16 two to seven years old children.
“Following an extensive pressure mounted as a result of the ongoing military operation around the camp of a notorious bandits’ kingpin known as Bello Turji that covers Shinkafi, Zurmi and Birnin Magaji local government areas. On Monday, police tactical operatives deployed at Shinkafi axis received an intelligence report that some kidnapped victims were seen stranded in the bush.
“The police operatives in collaboration with genuine repentant bandits and vigilante swung into action and rescued 68 victims from the forest. The victims were in captivity for over three months and they include 33 male adult, 7 male children, 3 female children and 25 women including pregnant/nursing mothers respectively,” he said.
He further explained that the victims were held from Magarya, Maradun, Gusau of Zamfara State and Sabon Birni LGA in Sokoto State.
“Still on Monday, police tactical operatives deployed in Tsafe axis acted on intelligence report and stormed Kunchin Kalgo Forest in Tsafe LGA and rescued 29 kidnapped victims unconditionally.
“The victims were abducted for over 60 days from three villages namely; Adarawa, Gana and Bayawuri in Rijiya District of Gusau LGA; they include 25 female including pregnant/nursing mothers and four male children. The victims were said to have been abducted by a bandits’ kingpin, Ado Aleru.
“All the rescued victims are currently receiving medical treatment from the joint medical teams of the state government and the police. They will be debriefed, hand over to the state government before they are reunited with their families,” he added.