- Girls marched on foot from school to the bush
- Seven students escape from abductors
- Troops spot students’ location; harmattan delays rescue
- Concern for the lives of victims is our only restraint, Buhari warns bandits
By Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Bolaji Ogundele, Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja, Sani Muhammad Sani, Gusau/ THE NATION
The bandits who struck at the Government Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State,early yesterday ,appeared to have outsmarted security agents in the area in a game of wits in the moments leading to the invasion of the school.
The gunmen,according to sources,seemed to have divided themselves into groups,with one group engaging the security agents in a battle while another group moved into the school premises to abduct the girls.
This strategy,it was gathered,kept the security agents busy and unable to know what was going on at the school.
Preliminary report made available to the Federal Government yesterday put the number of the abductees at 307 as against the 317 initially reported.
Seven of the students escaped.
President Muhammadu Buhari,in his first reaction to the development yesterday, warned bandits against over-stretching their luck, saying the only thing shielding them from certain destruction is the restraint for the lives of the innocent captives.
The Nation gathered that security agents engaged in a fierce battle with some of the bandits who were used as decoys to divert attention from the abduction.
The preliminary report to government showed that the bandits marched the girls in the dark into the bush.
The military and security agencies have already located where the girls are being kept..
But the prevalent harmattan in some parts of the North, including Zamfara State and government’s concern for the lives of the girls, are said to be delaying a rescue operation from the air and on the land.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, is said to be coordinating the rescue operation.
“From preliminary report, the bandits this time around changed tactics before abducting the school girls in Jangebe,” an authoritative source said last night .
“They (bandits) diverted the attention of security agencies by using kidnappers as decoys. We have it on record that security agents clashed with some kidnappers in Jangebe before the bandits struck.
“So, while security agents were battling kidnappers, the bandits took advantage to raid the school and abduct the girls.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “The girls were marched on foot into the bush under armed escort by the bandits who were more in number than the abductees.
“The girls, who were frightened, tried to save their lives by pleading and obeying the directives of the bandits.”
Sources said the location of the abducted school girls has been found.
Said one of the sources: “The military and other security agencies have located where the girls are being kept.
“But what is delaying the rescue operation, both in the air and on the land, is the prevalent harmattan in the North, including Zamfara State. The harsh weather makes visibility on land and in the air difficult.
“Troops and other agents are also being careful to ensure minimum damage in rescuing the girls. We may have no choice than to call a spade, a spade.
“We hope political authority in the stste will buy the idea of the military liberating these innocent girls.”
The Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, was busy last night coordinating the rescue mission.
Other sources in Jangebe itself said the bandits struct at about 1am,shooting sporadically.
Seven abducted girls escape
Seven of the abducted girls succeeded in escaping from the grip of the gunmen, it was gathered last night.
The girls, according to the source, outwitted their abductors while they were being marched into the forest.
The girls said more could be on their way home as many of they were able to maneuver their way out of captivity.
We have deployed two surveillance helicopters, says IGP
Police Inspector General Muhammed Adamu said yesterday that the military, police, Department of State Security, and other security operatives have commenced coordinated search and rescue operations on the Zamfara abducted school girls.
Adamu ordered the immediate deployment of two operational surveillance helicopters to Zamfara State.
This is in addition to the personnel of Operation Puff Adder II earlier deployed to the State to support efforts by the Command to combat banditry, kidnapping and other related crimes.
The Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba said: “Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force have commenced a coordinated search and rescue operation, involving the deployment of both ground and aerial assets, aimed at locating and rescuing the students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State abducted in the early hours of Friday, 25th February, 2021.
“To ensure the success of the ongoing operation, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has ordered the immediate deployment of two (2) operational surveillance helicopters to Zamfara State.
“This is in addition to the personnel of Operation Puff Adder II earlier deployed to the State to support efforts by the Command to combat banditry, kidnapping and other related crimes.”
Adamu condemned the “barbaric and callous abduction of the innocent female students,” and pledged that the Police and other security forces will not relent until the abducted students are successfully rescued and reunited with their families”.
Mba said the joint rescue operation is being carried out by the Police, the Military and other members of the law enforcement community with support from the State Government and other Stakeholders.
The Zamfara Police Commissioner Abutu Yaro said a joint search and rescue operation was already underway with a view to rescuing the kidnapped students .
CP Yaro said the Force Commander Operations Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande, Brigade Commander 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army Gusau, and other state government officials led a heavily armed Re-enforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to have been whisked to.
Concern for lives of victims is our only restraint, Buhari warns bandits
President Muhammadu Buhari,in his first reaction to the abduction of the girls, warned bandits not to over-stretch their luck, saying the only thing shielding them from certain destruction is the restraint for the lives of the innocent.
Security forves, according to him, have what it takes to end the impunity of the bandits.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu,said in a statement that the military have been mindful of the rules of engagement, adding that no criminal group is too powerful for strong for government to crush.
Government,he vowed, “will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.”
He added: “no criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government.
“The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.
“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.
“Our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.
“A hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.”
He warned the bandits “not to entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
The President appealed to state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”
He also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.
The 27 students of the Government Science College Kagara,Niger State,who were abducted from the school last week remain in captivity as are about 100 Chibok school girls who were seized in April 2014 and Leah Sharibu who was kidnapped in Dapchi,Yobe State in 2018.