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Banditry/Terrorism: Nigerian Military has Capacity to finish the job; Wary of Collateral Damage as Bandits now fleeing into settlements to shield selves; 52 Bandits killed in 7 days.

As outrage and concerns among citizens grow over banditry killings and kidnapping attacks in the country, the armed forces high command has declared that the military is neither weak nor overwhelmed in its efforts to contain the security challenges or wipe out the criminal elements in the country.

The Military however explained that bandits had developed the tactics of fleeing into settlements and villages, mingling with innocent human population as shield, knowing fully well that in such situation, land and air bombardments cannot be carried out which would be violation of international law.

Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche who made the disclosure during a briefing, also stated that while the military and other security agencies were neutralizing the bandits in scores, there were still some soft target attacks because many of the children of the bandits are also bandits whose only means of livelihood right from childhood, has been proceeds of banditry.

His words, “Those saying or asking if the armed forces are overwhelmed over issues of banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and other criminalities should know there are certain dynamics in play. Some people have suggested that we carry out Carpet bombing of the bandits. But if we do that, it becomes genocide.

“Instances abound, when after surveillance of their camps, aircraft are sent to bomb these camps and wipe out the bandits, but they flee into settlements, villages and farmlands where farmers are working and mingle with them. In such situations, you cannot bomb.

“The criminals have knowledge of laws of armed combat and international humanitarian laws. It is not that the military is weak. It is not that we don’t have the capacity. It is being mindful of collateral damage to innocent citizens and communities.

Shedding light on why it appeared that despite the acknowledged efforts of the armed forces in dealing with the menace, banditry was still rearing its ugly head, Enenche said, “Many of the people who migrated from other countries were born into banditry and violence. They know nothing else. They don’t know farming. They see banditry as a way of life. That is why recently when palliatives were given to some communities as a result of Covid 19, bandits attacked several villages killing scores of villages and carting away the foodstuff”.

The Coordinator however disclosed that plans have been made and are being implemented to get the bandits and criminal elements adding, “The Presidential directives is being carried out by the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff, and supported by the Nigerian Police Force, the NSCDC and other security agencies.

Emphasizing that information to security agencies from communities was key to tackling banditry menace, General Enenche said, “In the past, the communities kept quiet. Camps of bandits were established like farmhouses. Weapons were hidden in these farmhouses. The people shielded this information until the bandits turned on them.

“Now as we are getting the information, we are taking them out. I can assure you that the operations to wipe out these bandits and other criminals will not end until they are cleared”.

Giving an update on operations in the North East, Enenche stated that following exploitation after troops repelled Boko Haram/ISWAP attacks on Monguno, the number of terrorists killed was 41 while 2 soldiers died in battle.

He said, “In the North-East, the armed forces of Nigeria have intensified its offensives against the BHT/ISWAP terrorists through concerted and deliberate land and air operations, in line with the operational mandate to decisively end all terrorists’ activities in this region.

“Significantly, between 11th – 18th June 2020, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole carried out several aggressive clearance operations at various locations within the theatre, including a daring counter-attack on Boko Haram terrorists who attempted to infiltrate Monguno town on 12 June 2020.

“The counter attack by own troops at Monguno resulted in the neutralization of 41 terrorists and the recovery of a large cache of arms, ammunition and equipment, as well as the rescue of 33 captives, amongst others.

“In the North-West, Armed Forces of Nigeria have continued to build on recent successes against armed bandits operating in the region following intensive ground and air assaults on their identified bases, with scores of bandits killed.

“Within the period under review, the Land and Air components of Operations Hadarin Daji, Katsina and Accord, carried out aggressive clearance operations at several identified bandits’ enclaves. Most importantly was the attack on 3 camps operated by one ‘Adamu Aleiro’ in a forest along Katsina – Zamfara boundary area.

“Scores of bandits were killed during that encounter, with several others injured.  In the process, troops also apprehended 3 suspected bandits, including one Ibrahim Isa clad in military camouflage while 6 kidnapped victims were rescued, amongst other recoveries.

“Furthermore, AFN troops under the auspices of Operation Accord carried out several Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities at various communities within the North-West theatre including drilling and completion of 7 boreholes at Mazoji, Kururubai and Gabasawa B communities in Daura LGA, Tudun Matawalle, Rahamawa and Tudun-Dole and Natsinta communities of Katsina LGA.

“Presently, 2 additional boreholes are being drilled in Dangeza and Dunya villages in Danmusa LGA of Katsina State. Plans are also underway to construct a Medical Dispensary in Mazoji community in Daura LGA, as well as renovate schools in the vicinity.

“Since the commencement of Operation Accord, several high-profile terrorists’ and bandits’ leaders have surrendered while many others have been neutralized and their equipment captured by our gallant troops. In the period under review, the AFN has neutralized 52 criminals across all theatres with the destruction and recovery of weapons.

Continuing Enenche said, Troops of Operation Whirl Stroke on 14th June 2020 apprehended one militia leader popularly known as Alhaji Audu from Olegeje community in Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.

“In the course of the operation, arms and ammunition were recovered. Alhaji Audu was suspected to be responsible for several attacks in the community and has been on the wanted list of security agencies for some time now. The arrest of Alhaji Audu has brought relative peace to the surrounding communities.

“In the Niger-Delta region, armed forces troops have continued to degrade the activities of economic saboteurs through ongoing anti-illegal oil bunkering operations in the general area.

“Within the week under review, a total of 5 illegal refineries, 14 surface metal storage tanks, 9 coolers, 9 cooking ovens were confiscated and the site has been earmarked for swamp buggy operations.

“While about 2,640. 5 barrels of stolen crude oil, 80,000 litres of Automotive Gas Oil and 43,000 liters of Premium Motor Spirit were seized.

“Troops also neutralized 4 militants and recovered arms and ammunition during clearance operations on pirates/militants’ camps at Ibokiri and New Jerusalem in Degema LGA of Rivers State”.

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