Amidst military offensive, notorious bandit Turji releases 52 kidnap victims

A few days after military operations in Zamfara State killed two leaders of terror groups and their followers, another kingpin, Bello Turji, has released dozens of victims his group kidnapped.

Mr Turji has released 52 kidnap victims as part of his efforts to appease the Zamfara State government towards granting him an amnesty.

Informed sources in the state including a Government House official confirmed the development to this newspaper on Monday.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Turji wrote a ceasefire letter to President Buhari, Governor Bello Matawalle and the emir of Shinkafi.

In the letter, he outlined five conditions for the ceasfire.

Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state. [PHOTO CREDIT: @officialdrbellomatawalle]
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state. [PHOTO CREDIT: @officialdrbellomatawalle]

His current gesture is coming a few days after Nigerian Air force jets bombed to death two other bandits’ leaders and their followers in Gusami forest in Zamfara State.

Saturday’s air force bombings are part of the renewed efforts by the military to decimate the various terror groups operating in the North-west where thousands of people were killed and kidnapped in 2021.

Release of kidnap victims

Mohammed Humility, a resident of Shinkafi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, told PREMIUM TIMES Monday evening that the abducted victims were from communities in Shinkafi, Zurmi, and Birnin Magaji local government areas of Zamfara State as well as Isa and Sabon Birni LGAs of Sokoto State.

“We were expecting them from morning but they were released around 7 p.m. Five buses were chartered by some officials and sent to a river bank for the meeting,” he said.

He said the freed captives were being taken to Gusau, the state capital.

Another resident, Salihu Shinkafi, a senior lecturer at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, said he spoke with someone who met the released victims.

He added that the release of the victims could be because of the killing of Alh Auta, a notorious bandit leader, by air force bombs.

A Zamfara State Government House source, who asked not to be named as he has no permission to speak to journalists on the matter, said Mr Turji took the step to appease the state governor.

“I can confirm that His Excellency knew of the decision by Turji to release the victims. For now, I know the stand is that there will be no dialogue with bandits because even the letter was disregarded. We also learnt that Turji has been pleading with some of his friends to release some captives as part of his plan to appease us but I’m not sure it will work,” he said.

The police spokesperson in Zamfara State, Mohammed Shehu, did not respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Governor Matawalle was a proponent of dialogue with bandits towards persuading them to drop their arms and embrace the law.

But he discarded the policy after some so-called repentant bandits returned to the forests to resume their criminal activities after being paid off by the state government.

A military offensive later dislodged many of the bandits from Zamfara forests. But they relocated to neighbouring Sokoto where they have been kidnaping and slaughtering residents and road users.

A bombing raid on the hideouts of some of the bandits late last month in Zamfara led to the death of some of them, after which Mr Turji unilaterally declared a ceasefire.

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