President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the attack on vigilantes at Yargoje forest in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State, where many lives were lost.
The insurgents had at the weekend ambushed a convoy of vigilantes in the forest as they went to recover stolen cows leading to the killings.
The President, according to a release issued on Sunday by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, paid tribute to all those vigilantes and family members who have been martyred today, saying the sacrifices of the brave men who are working to prevent and punish crime in their communities will not be forgotten.
According to him: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families in this difficult period. May Allah repose the soul of the deceased.”
This comes amid reports that the death toll has risen to 84 from the 44 initially reported.
“Death toll from the Katsina terrorists attacks rises to 84 and no word from the Governors because it’s not money matters,” tweeted former Kaduna Senator, Shehu Sani.
Locals had reported at the vigilante office in Bakori that some terrorists attacked the residence of one Muntari and rustled unspecified numbers of domestic animals, a development which prompted the victims to trace the hoodlums to Gidan Gambo Village in Kankara.
Unknown to the slain vigilantes, residents said, some terrorists’ informants in communities bordering Bakori and Kankara local governments alerted them that the vigilantes were tracing them, the development that led to their ambush by the terrorists.
A resident of Kankara, Abba Usman, told THISDAY in a telephone interview on Friday that the terrorists operated concurrently between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning in several villages of the two local governments.
He said: “They (terrorists) attacked the residence of one Muntari in Bakori town last Wednesday night and rustled hundreds of his domestic animals. Following the development, some local vigilantes organised themselves the next day (Thursday) and traced the terrorists to Gidan Gamji Village where they engaged them in a gun battle.
“Sadly, the terrorists killed 44 of them (vigilantes) and injured many others who are currently receiving treatment at different hospitals in Bakori and Kankara. As we speak, we recovered 44 dead bodies so far and search parties, including soldiers and policemen are in the forest searching for more bodies.”
But the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Gambo Isah, while confirming the incident to journalists in a statement, said those killed were members of the outlawed Yansakai (volunteers) group from 11 villages in Bakori Local Government.
He said: “On Wednesday, 1/02/2023 at about 2200hrs, terrorists in their numbers, shooting sporadically with AK-47 rifles, attacked the house of one Alhaji Muntari, at Unguwar Audu Gare, Kandarawa, Bakori LGA, and rustled fifty (50) cows and thirty (30) sheep.
“Subsequently, on Thursday, 2/02/2023, at about 10:00hrs, Yansakai outlawed group, from eleven (11) villages from Bakori LGA, regrouped and went after the terrorists with a view to recovering the rustled domestic animals. They traced the footpath of the hoodlums to a location at Yargoje Forest.
“Unfortunately, the terrorists planned and launched a coordinated ambush on the Yansakai. The hoodlums shot and killed forty-one (41) Yansakai and wounded two (2).
“Area Commander, Malumfashi, led a team of Policemen to the scene and recovered the corpses and injured to Kankara General Hospital. A joint security operation is currently ongoing with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book. Investigation is ongoing, please.”