By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Defence Headquarters on Tuesday said the joint operations of the armed forces in Zamfara and Kaduna states had substantially addressed the security challenges in the North-West.
The acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, disclosed this at a news conference on the activities of Operation Hadarin Daji and Operation Thunder Strike from May to July, in Abuja.
Nwachukwu said that Operation Hadarin Daji neutralised 54 armed bandits in several encounters in fortified enclaves in Moriki, Madada and Dumburum forests in Zamfara, and that assorted fire arms were also recovered from the bandits.
He stated that troops of the squad successfully rescued over 50 kidnapped victims and neutralised no fewer than 78 armed bandits from various fortified enclaves in Zamfara and contiguous states.
“The troops have also recovered a total of 39 firearms which include 16 AK47 rifles, one light machine gun, 14 Dane guns, two pump-action rifles, three semi-automatic rifles, three pistols and 2,437 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition.
“Additionally, over 25 suspected armed bandits have been arrested, with 14 motorcycles recovered.
“The bandits are currently undergoing preliminary investigations after which they will be handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies,” he said.
Nwachukwu said that the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, constituted Joint Task Force Operation Thunder Strike (JTF OPTS) in May to tackle the problems of insecurity on Abuja-Kaduna highway and other adjoining communities.
He said that the operation had the mandate to reorganise and coordinate the existing security structures on the road and rail line in order to bring the situation under control.
He said that troops of JTF OPTS had identified some black spots on Abuja-Kaduna highway, including Jere, Katare, Rijana, Kurmi-Karshi, Gidan-Mamman Black-gold and Gidan-Guza, where criminals unleashed attacks on unsuspecting road users.
The defence spokesperson added that the troops embarked on series of fighting patrols to enable them to dominate the highway and the rail line.
He added that “Cordon and Search’’ operations were also carried out to mop up illegally acquired firearms in the hands of identified criminal gangs, while security escorts were provided for farmers and road users.
“These operations led to the interception and arrest of 14 suspected kidnappers, while six bandits were neutralised.
“In a unique occurrence, troops, while on aggressive patrol on Abuja-Kaduna highway, discovered a group of bandits dressed in military camouflage.
“Ordinarily, they would have been perceived by unsuspecting members of the public as military personnel on routine checks on the highway.
“The courageous troops moved tactically to the scene, engaged the bandits in a fire fight and neutralised them.
“The troops have so far recovered 38 firearms, comprising 11 AK 47 rifles, one semi-automatic rifle, one revolver pistol, 23 Dane guns and two locally-made pistols.
“Other arms recovered are 157 rounds of 7.62 mm special ammunition, eight cartridges, two AK 47 magazines, five mobile phones and four solar panels,” he said.
Nwachukwu stated that the troops also recovered seven motorcycles used by the bandits and 695 cattle, adding that the cows had since been returned to their owners.
He reassured Nigerians, particularly residents of Kaduna, Zamfara and other affected states, that the military and other security agencies were fully committed to ensuring their safety and security.