The Niger State Government says bandits killed 11 security agents and several villagers in separate attacks between Friday and Saturday in Shiroro and Paikoro local government areas of the state.
Residents of the areas said at least 32 persons were killed overall across the affected communities.
Governor Abubakar Bello spoke on the attacks on Tuesday through a statement issued by his media aide, Mary Noel-Berje.
The governor said “the terrorists, numbering over 100 invaded the community in broad daylight, killing about 11 Joint Security Taskforce members, several villagers and leaving many injured.
He said scores of the gunmen were also said to have been neutralised.
Mr Bello said the attacks on Galadiman Kogo and other villages in Shiroro council area could have been averted if the locals had alerted the security forces on time.
Residents said the attacks occurred on Saturday and Monday with 20 people immediately confirmed killed in Shiroro and another person in Paikoro. Added to the official figure of security casualties, the number of the dead is now 32.
The Chairperson, Shiroro Local Government Area, Suleiman Chukuba, had earlier confirmed the incident to newsmen but said he could not confirmed the number of casualties.
But the chairperson, Concerned Shiroro Youth Groups, Yusuf Kokki, in a statement on Monday had also said 20 residents were killed and that many residents were yet to be accounted for.
He said several communities in the area have been deserted.
Mr Kokki blamed the attack on the withdrawal of security personnel from their Galadima Kogo base in Shiroro for the attacks.
“This decision taken by Government, notwithstanding the accompanying reason (s), is reckless and insensitive in its entirety, especially to the plights of innocent and unarmed law-abiding citizens already ravaged by incessant insecurity.
“Considering how porous, prone to insecurity and vulnerable to deadly attacks by the rampaging hydra-headed, venomous murderous and heartless terrorists, Galadima Kogo is, one can easily conclude that withdrawal of security personnel at this material time is a deliberate attempt to further jeopardize people’s lives and put them in the line,” he said.
“In view of the calamity at hand, the Concerned Shiroro Youths Of Niger State hereby call with the loudest voice on the authorities concerned to restore the withdrawn security personnel and also deploy additional security personnel to other areas prone to insecurity with immediate effect or risk our reactions.,” Mr Kokki stated.
But the governor on Tuesday said the withdrawal of the soldiers “was tactical, in order to restrategise.”
Residents said the gunmen also raided Paikoro, a neighbouring council area, killing one person Monday afternoon.
A resident, Salisu Sabo, told this newspaper that the gunmen, on Monday morning, were moving from one community to another, looting shops, shooting, and abducting people
He said “they have so far invaded Ammale, Dakalo, kuchiri, kurmin Giwa, Goto Reshidat, Yanki and Goto Sarki communities. One person has been killed, while the injured victims are receiving treatment in Kafin Koro General Hospital.”
“Attack could have been averted”
In the official statement, Governor Bello said the attack on Galadiman Kogo would have been unsuccessful if villagers from Galape and Kudodo in Allawa had alerted the security agencies when they noticed the movements of the terrorists towards the town.
He urged villagers in the affected communities to endeavour to provide credible information to the Joint Security Taskforce stationed in the area, adding that “security agencies cannot perform effectively and efficiently without getting appropriate support and intelligence from the people.”
The governor called for calm and urged the fleeing communities in Galadiman Kogo and Kuchi in Shiroro and Munya local government areas to await a swift and immediate response from the Joint Security Taskforce, stressing that their earlier withdrawal was tactical in order to re-strategise.
“The state government has already secured the order and clearance of President Buhari to carry out intensive military operations in the affected axis, assuring that ground and airstrikes would continue to comb the areas, so as to flush out those miscreants.
“We have really run out of patience with the terrorists and we’ll use every means possible to bring an end to this incessant bloody attacks on innocent people. We’ll do everything to stop the killings and return normalcy to the affected communities.
“The governor prayed for the reposed souls of the Joint Security Taskforce members and villagers who lost their lives during the attack on Galadiman Kogo and directed the State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) to urgently provide succour to the injured and displaced,” the statement said.