“Immediately bandits sight military jet, they would chain us tightly and run away to mountain caves to hide. Soldiers do not come into the forest, only military jets do and we saw many military jets in the forest and even escaped being bombed to death, after an inferno that was triggered by flame from the blast.”
That was the account of a kidnap victim, Ahmad Abdulrazak, who was among the over 100 victims released by the terrorists.
Few days ago, Bello Turji, the notorious bandits leader in Zamfara released a number of kidnapped victims who had been in his custody for months. Turji is on the wanted list of the Nigerian security agencies for several attacks and kidnapping which he and his lieutenants carried out. Narrating his ordeal, Abdulrazak said he spent 32 harrowing days in the kidnappers and ‘suffered hardship in the forest.’
“The gunmen told us many things, they told us that what they feared most in life were military fighter jets. They also said that if security agents come after them on land, they (bandits) would definitely deal with them, that they were even anxiously waiting for such security agents so that they could incapacitate them.
“The bomb dropped by the jet in the forest led to the burning of Turji’s school and his food storage. The aircraft did not harm any of the kidnapped victims but it wounded some of Turji’s boys and the school, leaving one person dead. I heard one of Turji’s boys saying their leader had given out the sum of N2 million for the treatment of the wounded bandit in the hospital”.
How the over 100 victims left the forest
According to Ahmad Abdulrazak, ”Bello Turji kept us at the bank of a river near the village of Mabera
While we were in the forest, someone came in army uniform and asked us if we wanted to go home and we answered yes. He immediately ordered that we should be unchained and said whoever tried to run away would be killed. Some boys of about 13 years old were then asked to lead us out of the forest.
At about 5 pm to 6 pm, Bello Turji released us and we were conveyed to the Police Area Command in Shinkafi. We were immediately moved to Gusau, the Zamfara state capital. Those who regained freedom were over a hundred, comprising men,women and children.
“Bello Turji had released his entire captives because he wanted to engage the state authorities in a peace truce. Some of the freed victims had injuries because while on the way after being kidnapped, the bandits opened fire on them but in a manner that would not cause much damage.
“When you look at the victims, they looked so dirty as if they were brought out from the ground because they were not taking their bath, they were kept in the open”.
Turji, a newcomer in banditry—Don
Meanwhile, among many of Bello Turji’s lieutenants were children of the rich, children of traditional rulers and some from affluent members of the community. Disclosing this to the BBC Hausa Service, a lecturer at the Department of History of the University of Sokoto, Dr Murtala Ahmed Rufa’i who authored a book, “I am a Bandit “, said it was part of his research on the activities of bandits.
According to him, “Turji attended Islamic school and is fairly knowledgeable. But his Islamic knowledge is not as deep as people would think. Turji also had western education and had completed his elementary education.
Turji’s boys are not only from poor background, as he has children from the upper class in his fold. “These big children under Turji’s control are youths who are in his ( Turji’s) age category, and amongst them are children of kings and district heads from the region”.
Dr Murtala who listed some of the youths, majority of who were Turji’s childhood friends, said “all these are not from poor families, they are well to do by all standards. Bello Turji has not been in the cattle rustling act and killing people for long. Even when this crisis began in Zamfara, during the era of Tsoho, popularly known as Buharin Daji, Turji was a young boy and had not been indoctrinated in that fold. He joined much later. Turji joined wholeheartedly. Those in the region would tell you that all through that period, Turji was just trading in markets,”the lecturer said
Zamfara state is among states in the North-West region that are worst hit by the activities of bandits .
The Nigerian military has sustained an onslaught on the gunmen which had resulted in the reported killing by Nigerian Airforce jets of three notorious bandits in the state, a development pundits said might have prompted Bello Turji to seek a subtle way of disengaging from terrorist activities.