The notorious bandit who reportedly shot down a Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet has been named.
The bandit has been identified Ali Kachalla, a notorious terror kingpin operating around the Dansadau axis of the vast Kuyambana Forest, according to DailyTrust.
When the military jet was downed through the use of heavy artillery power on June 18, no details were available about the incident from both official and unofficial sources and nothing much came out since then.
While the action was expectedly attributed to bandits, the catchword for the armed criminals controlling large swathes of rural Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi States, it was unclear who among the several kingpins straddling the area were responsible for downing the aircraft.
But talking to locals, security personnel and other persons with the understanding of happenings in the areas troubled by rural banditry, Daily Trust gathered that Ali Kachalla, a shrewd terrorist with hideout in Kuyambana was the mastermind of the monumental operation.
Kachalla, originally a chieftaincy title in the Kanuri language, is widely used as an honorific for bandits’ leaders in the North-West.
The fighter jet was brought down by men of Kachalla’s gang near Kabaru village, located some 15 km west of Dansadau town.
Spokesperson for the NAF, Edward Gabkwet, in a statement released at the time said the aircraft was attacked while returning from an air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna States.
While nothing was heard or seen of the ill-fated aircraft, the Air Force released pictures of the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, who successfully ejected from the aircraft.
Daily Trust later exclusively reported how Dairo ran for his life and was saved by locals who ferried him to Dansadau from where he was evacuated by an Air Force helicopter.
Shooting down the NAF jet might be Kachalla’s most daring exploit yet, but for residents in the troubled Dansadau district, his name has been on their lips especially in recent times. He has carried out series of brutal attacks on communities in the district and is known to take special interest in ambushing military personnel.
Unveiling Ali Kachalla
Ali Kachalla, is a young bandits’ leader controlling over 200 armed men in Kuyambana Forest. The forest straddles Zamfara, Kebbi Kaduna and Niger States.
Those who know him said he was born in Madada, a hamlet near Dansadau to a family of herders. He is said to be in his early 30s.
Kachalla’s current base is located along the bank of a river called River Goron Dutse, which is about 25 km south of Dansadau town, one source familiar with the area, told Daily Trust.
Goron Dutse River is situated across the Kaduna – Zamfara boundary, with parts of it in Kaduna State and the other part in Zamfara State.
“His settlement consisting of several strings of thatched huts is on Birnin Gwari side of the river. But, his large herd of cattle being manned by his heavily armed boys is based in Zamfara State,” a source in the area who craved for anonymity told one of our reporters.
“As I’m talking to you his boys can be found in Dandalla, Madada and Gobirawa Kwacha communities. The villages are all situated southeast of Dansadau town. They are all being controlled by the armed men,” the source explained.
Kachalla’s men are described as “fearless fighters” and have been laying ambush for security operatives for quite a long time. His boys said to outnumber most of those in other gangs in the area.
In recent times, Kachalla has stepped up attacks on Dansadau town to protest the blocking of supplies to him from the town and the villagers’ help in the escape of the military pilot who he wanted to capture alive. In one of the attacks, his men set an Armoured Personnel Carrier ablaze, after chasing security forces deployed to the town.
“Dansadau community has drawn the ire of Kachalla and his boys after local traders were blocked from selling food to him,” one source said. “There are some unscrupulous elements among the local traders who still take bread, soft drinks and other groceries to the bandits in the forest.”
The residents of the community recently protested against the business transactions and blocked every move by the traders to deal with the bandits.
Security operatives in collaboration with other residents have stepped up efforts to arrest suspected informants. Last week, Daily Trust reported how 22 suspected informants were rounded up from the town with one of them setting himself ablaze.
The death of Buharin Daji and rise of Ali Kachalla
When the notorious bandit, Buharin Daji, was killed by fellow outlaws in March 2018, a few of his lieutenants rose from his shadows to pick up the gauntlet. Among the Buharin Daji associates who would rise to notoriety were his assailant, Dogo Gide and Ali Kachalla.
Sources said though the two are good friends, they keep separate gangs with Gide marauding through the forests from one place to another while Kachalla remains sedentary on the edge of Zamfara.
Aside from benefitting from members of the old Buharin Daji group, Kachalla also cultivated his men, breaking the barrier into non-Fulani communities.
“There are many youths of Hausa extraction who have gone to join his group, including many residents of Dansadau town; they are with him in the forest,” our source disclosed.
While Kachalla may appear invincible, he is said to have suffered losses a few times in the hands of security forces and in at least one clash with a renowned Ansaru leader in the North-West, Mallam Abba, where Kachalla lost about 30 men.