In days of a fierce battle with gangs of deadly bandits in Nigeria’s North West Zamfara state, 13 soldiers and over 215 bandits, collaborators and civilians have been killed.
The military had for days been engaged in air and ground offensives against the bandits, who came from different camps to attack troubled Mutunji, Malele and Dansadau villages in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara.
An update on the situation on Tuesday shows that no fewer than 213 bodies, comprising those of the terrorists, their collaborators and civilians caught in the crossfire have been recovered.
Nigerian troops lost 13 personnel while some civilians were killed when bandits fled toward the communities, using the civilians as human shields apparently to prevent ferocious fighter jets from dropping bombs.
The air component and ground troops were not deterred by the tricks of the bandits who occupied the village with more than 600 bikes and sophisticated weapons.
The jet fighters of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and ground troops of the Nigerian Army were quickly deployed in the ongoing and well-coordinated joint operations, but no civilian casualty was recorded so far.
“Bandits who were fleeing from NAF airstrikes ran into a small village called Mutunji to take refuge but were hit by bombs.
“At least we counted 213 bodies of the bandits, their collaborators and some civilians in what the military called ‘collateral damage’ have been recovered.
“The attack on troops occurred when the troops with the support of local vigilantes were navigating the terrains for counter-attacks,” a reliable source said on December 20, 2022.
Another source said: “More than five bandits’ camps led by Damina, Ali Kachalla, Buzu and even Ado Aliero were mobilised to attack the communities.
“The residents got wind of the attack and informed the military immediately.
``Two fighter jets arrived shortly afterward. One of the jets hovered around Dansadau town for some minutes and then flew towards Maigoge community.
“Then, we saw several military vehicles move there. The jets fired several rockets at the armed men. Unfortunately, the armed criminals scrambled into Mutunji community to blend with residents when they sighted the fighter jets’’
“Huge collateral damage was recorded in the attack because dozens of residents were trapped and killed by NAF bombs,’’ the source reported.
One of the wounded civilians, Mr Abbas Hamisum, said that at least 81 people were currently receiving treatments in different medical facilities in Gusau, the state capital.
“Several houses were destroyed in Mutunji as burned-out motorbikes and vehicles have become a common sight.
The Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Spokesman, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, confirmed the attack but refused to give details.
Mr Zailani Bappa, the Special Adviser on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communications to Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, delivered a condolence message and heartfelt sympathy to the families of victims caught in military fire against the marauding bandits.
“I wish to, on behalf of myself, my family, the state Government and the entire good people of Zamfara state, extend my sincere sympathy to those who were injured and the families of those who died as a result of this collateral damage,” he said on behalf of the Governor.