Officials on Friday says Nigerian local authorities have widened a telecom shutdown in northwest Zamfara state to a neighbouring state as part of an ongoing military crackdown on gangs behind a series of mass kidnappings.
The Guardian reports that last week, Nigerian security forces in Zamfara commenced one of their biggest recent operations against the armed gangs, known locally as bandits, in a trial to thwart the upswing in violence.
In a bid to block the armed groups’ communications, the country’s telecoms regulator also authorized operators to close down their towers in Zamfara as the military started raids and air strikes on bandit refuges.
According to a security aide to Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, telecommunication services were now also shut in 13 of that state’s 34 districts on the border with Zamfara.
“The shutdown is meant to stop bandits from Zamfara moving into Katsina state to use telecom services for their terrorist activities,” Ibrahim Ahmed Katsina said.
“For now the shutdown affects 13 local governments to aid ongoing security operations but we will not hesitate to expand the shutdown where necessary,” Katsina said.
Northwest and central Nigeria have long been plagued by criminals gangs who raid communities, stealing cattle and kidnapping residents for ransom after looting and burning homes.
However, the unrest has doubled this year and bandits have sought to abducting schools and colleges students and pupils in a succession of mass kidnappings.
Heavily-guarded bandit camps spread around the Rugu forest that is situated around the northern states of Kaduna, Katsina Zamfara and Niger.
Nexus News further gathered that hundreds of armies aided by gunships and fighter jets dispatched offensives on Saturday on bandits camps in the Shinkafi area of Zamfara state, security sources have disclosed.
Sequel to the telecoms shutdown, Zamfara residents have been travelling to Funtua in Katsina state to make phone calls and bank transactions, which have also been blocked.
Furthermore, local officials and residents say gangs of bandits escaping the military offensive have ambushed communities in neighbouring states.
Gunmen believed to be from Zamfara kidnapped more than 20 people on Wednesday in a village on the provincial border in neighbouring Sokoto State, police said.
On Thursday, six people were murdered and seven more kidnapped in a pre-dawn invasion by bandits on Tureta town in Sokoto, Muhammad Sadiq Abubakar, the state’s police spokesman told AFP.
According to local residents, on Wednesday, locals in Bakori town in Katsina state arrested a bandit fleeing with his family from Zamfara.
Past military campaigns and amnesty deals with bandits sought by local governors have failed to stop the attacks.
Under pressure over worsening insecurity in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has charged security chiefs to find urgent ways to deter violence in the northwest even as they battle a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the country’s northeast.
Harphs is a literary enthusiast from Hardawa, Bauchi state. She finds her passion in writing, journalism and teaching.Harphs currently writes from Gombe, Nigeria. You can reach her via Hafseemuhammad@gmail.com