By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
Troops have killed 14 notorious bandits comprising of cattle rustlers, armed bandits and kidnappers, while 31 people were rescued and several arms and ammunition, recovered.
This was made known during a press briefing held at the headquarters of the 1 Division Nigerian Army, Kaduna by acting Director, Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, on Monday, November 19, 2018.
“So far, in this operation, 14 notorious bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers have been neutralised. Likewise several assorted sophisticated arms, ammunition and large herds of cattle have been recovered from the bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers.
“A total of 18 AK47 rifles, 2 pistols, 3 mobile phones, 1 motorola, large cache of ammunition and 32 Motorcycles have been recovered. The troops also recovered over 331 cows from rustlers in Birnin Gwari area and 132 cows in Birnin Yero areas respectively.
“Along the Kaduna Abuja Expressway 49 cows and 42 sheep have been recovered. All the recovered animals were handed over to their screened and profiled owners.
“Additionally, a total of 31 persons (18 Children and 13 Adults) were rescued from kidnappers within the Area of Operation. During this period also 5 bandits and 2 informants were arrested and they are currently assisting the security agencies in ongoing investigation. Unfortunately 2 soldiers were wounded and are currently receiving treatment at military hospital in Kaduna. Two civilian vigilante assisting troops in the operation were also killed in action by bandits fire,” it stated.
He said the briefing was on the activities of the Operation WHIRL PUNCH being conducted by the troops of 1 Division Nigerian Army (NA).
“This operation is part of the Operation 777, which is being conducted and coordinated simultaneously nationwide under the auspices of the Defence Headquarters.
” Prior to the launch of Op 777, terrorists and criminals devised different means of evading ongoing operations in different theatres of operations. However, since the commencement of Op 777 on 8 October 2018, significant and modest operational successes have been recorded across the nation.
” Operation WHIRL PUNCH, 1 Division NA is tasked to provide security and restore normalcy along Kaduna Abuja Expressway and Birnin Gwari and its environs as well as Niger State, which were hitherto devastated by the activities of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and cattle rustlers.
“In preparation for the conduct of the operations, additional platforms, establishment of new military/Police formations/units and injection of more troops were carried out by the Defence Headquarters to ensure the success of this operation,” he added.
He explained that there is Nigerian Army Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Birnin Gwari, which will soon metamorphose into 98 Bn in line with 2016 NA Order Of Battle (ORBAT).
“The Nigerian Air Force also plan to establish FOB to support Operation WHIRL PUNCH in Birnin Gwari general area, Niger State and the entire operation WHIRL PUNCH Area of Responsibility.
“The troops of 1 Division NA, Nigerian Air Force aircrafts, Police and other security agencies are conducting series of raids, ambushes, patrols, road blocks and air strikes against the identified camps/hideouts of bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements within the operational areas.
“The general areas where our troops operate are characterised by thick forests such as the Kamuku, Kuduru, Birnin Gwari and Alawa Forests; the area also have several high grounds, which bandits and kidnappers use as staging areas and camps to perpetrate their heinous acts. To surmount these terrain challenges, we have also devised ingenious ways of deploying our troops and conducting operations,” he added.
He said that through these special operations, relative peace have been restored and hence, the troops dominate the operating environment, thereby creating safe and conducive atmosphere for socio-economic activities to thrive.
“It is evident that, now the local traders, motorists, residents of villages/settlements in these general areas are conducting their businesses mostly unmolested. The returned of relative peace and security was made possible through joint operations and synergy of efforts by the security agencies and cooperative posture of the locals and vigilante groups.
“Let me also address a recent allegation of killing 74 cows belonging to Fulanis at Riyawa in Sabon Birni area. The Riyawa general area has been notorious as a den of bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers. Severally, troops had encounters with the bandits who use the difficult terrain and knowledge of the ground to escape.
“On 17 November 2018, based on intelligence, troops conducted a raid on bandits camps in the area.
“The bandits were alerted by their dogs. The observed current practice of the bandits is to use their cows as shield to escape while firing at troops. This was the case on 17 November 2018 which was not a deliberate act by the troops to kill the cows,” he pointed out.
Speaking further, he said that troops were deployed to restore and maintain peace in the recent Kaduna crisis, noting that the proactive deployment, was applauded for its critical impact on preventing spread of crisis beyond Kaduna State.
“It is equally important to state that, as part of 1 Divisions Community Engagement Programmes (CEP) during Operation 777, medical outreach programme was carried out in Sayen Lemu Village in Zaria LGA. Worthy to mention also is the renovation of 2 blocks of class rooms recently in Sayen Lemu Village.
“As part of the CEP also, the troops in Kidandan area of Giwa LGA, Kaduna State now escort farmers to enable them harvest their crops. This is coming in the aftermath of recent bandits attacking and killing farmers in their farms in the general area,” he added.
He assured the law abiding citizens that the Armed Forces and other security agencies will continue to ensure the protection of lives and property of Nigerians.
“Operation 777 is designed to consolidate on the achievement of the existing operations so as to enhance the safety and promote socio- economic activities of Nigerians.
“We will continue to solicit the support and cooperation of the media towards successful conduct of the Operation 777,” he submitted.