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Terrorists Using Captives as Human Shields, Rescuing Kidnapped Train Passengers Requires Wisdom, Buhari Says

  President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, said rescuing the kidnapped passengers of the Kaduna-bound train that was recently attacked by terrorists was a delicate situation, which required wisdom, utmost caution,

Muhammadu Buhari


President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, said rescuing the kidnapped passengers of the Kaduna-bound train that was recently attacked by terrorists was a delicate situation, which required wisdom, utmost caution, and proper handling. Buhari, however, assured the families of the victims that efforts were on-going to ensure the safe return of all those held captive by the terrorists.

The president claimed that the rescue had been made difficult because the terrorists were holding the captives close to places that could be targeted by security operatives in the event of a strong rescue operation, to deter such attack. He directed security agencies and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) to provide more regular and detailed information to the victims’ families on their condition and efforts to save them.

The vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in his own remarks, restated the country’s trust in God, praying that the Almighty would fulfil the heart desires of all Muslims and every Nigerian.

Terrorists had on March 28 attacked a Kaduna-bound train, killing no fewer than nine people, injuring several others, and abducting most of the passengers.

The president’s assurances on efforts to secure the victims’ release came on the heels of a recent lawsuit filed against him by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) over failure to protect the rights to life, security, and dignity of the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack. SERAP also sued the president for his failure to secure the safe release of those held captive by the terrorists.

But speaking on Monday while receiving some residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Sallah homage at the State House, Abuja, Buhari said the government would explore every opportunity to rescue the captives alive and unhurt. He lamented that terrorists, unlike professional soldiers, did not respect the rules of engagement and could resort to harming hostages, when attacked.

Buhari urged Nigerians to create a hostile environment for criminals hiding in communities, saying by sheltering criminals, they are endangering their own security and the security of their own communities. He said strong synergy between security agencies and communities would make a huge difference in efforts to defeat banditry and terrorism in the country.

The president allayed fears that bandits could grow to yet another big challenge, like the Boko Haram threat, assuring Nigerians that the administration would not allow such to happen, as the welfare of the people of Abuja and all Nigerians remained paramount.

Buhari stated, “As we celebrate this occasion with joy amidst friends and family members, we are fully conscious of the fact that many families in our country are in a state of fear and anxiety on account of the many captives held by terrorists against their will, including those taken away after the tragic bombing of the Abuja-Kaduna train.

“I have directed security agencies to ensure quick and safe recovery of all victims of kidnapping. I urge the railway management to immediately set up a situation room for the coordination of the rescue mission and for a minute-by-minute engagement with the families of the captives.

“This should ease their pain and anxiety as we push the military to finding a safe return to their families. My aim is to see all those in captivity safely rescued. Let me assure Nigerians that the bandits are just pushing their luck, but this is only for a while before they are finally crushed.

“They are using civilians as human shields, thereby making it difficult to confront them directly. Terrorists don’t care about killing their hostages if they come under attack. It’s a delicate situation that requires wisdom, caution and also patience. Any rescue operation that results in the death of any hostage cannot be deemed a success.

“The government doesn’t want this kind of tragic outcome. It’s a complex situation that demands proper handling. The primary objective of any rescue operation is to free the hostages safely, unharmed and alive. Let me make it clear, however, that defeating the terrorists and bandits requires more than weapons.

“We also need human intelligence, which is necessary to frustrate terrorist plans. The people and community leaders should help our security officials with information about the activities or movements of criminal groups.”

Speaking further, the president said his administration had allocated huge resources to improve the capacity of the security forces through timely and adequate supply of equipment and improving the welfare of personnel to boost their morale.

He said Abuja had witnessed remarkable improvement in terms of security, and claimed that in the past, terrorists had made it almost impossible to lead normal lives in the capital city.

The president said the completion of the Abuja light rail was one of the major projects embarked on by the administration for the inhabitants, as development of infrastructure remained essential to economic growth. He added that the government would continue to give serious attention to the town and link roads to other states as well as electricity and power.

Osinbajo, at the occasion, thanked God for giving Buhari “all that you have required to tackle these challenges and for giving you the life and strength to tackle the challenges and to surmount the challenges.”

The vice president noted that despite the challenges, Nigeria remained united. He stated, “Every generation of leaders is confronted with its own problems. There is no leader that is not confronted with his own or her own problems.”

Osinbajo expressed gratitude to the president, on behalf of the invited guests, for hosting the gathering.

Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in Abuja

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