Last Monday’s attack on Yar Gamji village in Batsari Local Government by bandits which led to the death of 15 farmers was coming almost a year after a similar attack that claimed 18 persons also working on their various farms on the outskirts of the village.
The village, whose inhabitants are largely farmers, is about 15km from Batsari town, close to the dreaded Rugu Forest that serves as a hideout for bandits terrorising the areas.
This recent attack came after a midnight rainfall that sent joy to the villagers who, as early as 6am, moved to their farms without any premonition that they would not return home to their loved ones.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the attack was unconnected to the recent killing of one Garba Gayya, believed to be a middleman selling stolen animals for the bandits, by some volunteers in the village.
To avenge his death, the bandits it is believed carried out the attack to serve as a deterrent to further plans of fishing out their collaborators living within the communities.
In the attack, 15 persons were killed and two injured, who are presently receiving treatment at the Batsari General Hospital.
More worrisome was the fact that a military camp is located in Yar Gamji village.
Presently, most of the villagers have deserted the village.
Malam Salisu Dan Aji, who lost seven relatives and a son, said: “At about 10am, while working on our farms, we began to hear gunshots. I quickly asked them to unpack the cattle plough and rush home.
“As I continued to clear the side I was working on, the gunshots increased and I decided to run as well. I became confused as the gunshots came closer and instead of heading towards our village, I found myself running into the forest. I met a woman just by the forest demarcation. It was there I saw two motorcycles with four persons on each.
“We both pretended to be residents of one hamlet just beside us and they left us. It was when I returned to our village that I found out that seven of my younger ones and my son were among those killed,” he added.
Another farmer, Zubairu Yargamji who lost two cousins, said “the bandits came from the western part of the village immediately after a military plane flew overhead.
“I was planting on the farm, and as I lifted up my head, I saw many motorcycles passing through my farmland. Two minutes later, I began to hear gunshots, and then I ran towards my motorcycle and took off. I didn’t know they were shooting my co-farmers in the neighbouring farms.
“As I took off, I saw an elderly woman and I carried her and sped past many other farmers. It was later I realized that most of the farmers left behind had been killed.
“We rushed to inform soldiers stationed in our village who came and confronted them. The bandits didn’t spare anyone; even small children were killed in the attack. They operate in the open. Anytime you go to farms, you see them moving freely on foot or bikes with guns despite military presence.
“What we found annoying despite the engagement of the security personnel was that not one bandit was killed. They just ran back into the forest and the security men just retreated,” he said.
For Hassan Mohammed, one of the farmers who survived the attack, returning to the farm in that location is not an option.
“I tell you, many of us will not return to the farms because of fear. What we saw that day is fearful. I was running on corpses despite having a bad leg. I just hope things would change or something would happen, otherwise, I don’t think farmers would feel free to go back there,” he said.
Aminu Lawal from Batsari claimed: “We have not seen any change with the military presence here. People are being attacked and villages ransacked. Barakada was attacked, as well as Batsarin Alhaji. These places are just 2km from the main town.
“The soldiers don’t come when we are being attacked but we see them stationed at Kandawa and Wagini villages and other places. They attacked Gaurawa village along with Ruma town in broad daylight, went into farms, beat up farmers, and went away with 10 cattle, and this was less than 3km to the soldiers’ camp. Nothing happened till date,” he added.
Another resident, Abdulsalam Musa, who lost six persons in last year’s attack and two in the recent one, said: “My only plea to government is to withdraw these soldiers stationed in our village because they don’t help us. If they are doing what they ought to be doing, this won’t be reoccurring.”
The village head of Yar Gamji, Abubakar Haruna, have since relocated to Batsari town following spates of attacks, “My villagers are being attacked on daily basis because of no love lost between the bandits and the villagers. I called the district head, DPO and army to notify them of the attacks. We have them stationed in the village,” he said.
The Yar’Gamji attack came a day after several neighbouring villages were attacked. At Dan Alhaji village, one person was reportedly killed. At Kimbitsawa village, the bandits went from house to house and carted away 18 cows. They broke into so many shops, carting away provisions while at Kandawa village, one was killed and three abducted.
At Shirgi village, a 12-year-old boy was reported killed while at Tsugunni village, many were shot and over 60 animals rustled. There were also reported attacks at Ajasu, Garin Yara, Madogara, Katsalle, Kurna, Batsarin Alhaji, Watangodiya and Goburawa villages.
These attacks have led to mass relocation and reopening of an Internally Displaced Persons camp that was hitherto closed two weeks back.
So far, over 600 women have been registered at the camp, with each having between two and three children.
Speaking on the Yar Gamji attack, spokesman of the state police command SP Gambo Isah confirmed that 15 persons were killed.
Isah said only last week, the DPO of Batsari led Operations ‘Puff Adder’ and ‘Sharan Daji’ to Salihawa village in Batsari Local Government based on the report that bandits numbering about 40 had attacked the village, killed two and rustled some animals.
“The team chased the hoodlums on their way into the forest and engaged them in a gun duel. The team killed two of the bandits and recovered an unspecified number of rustled animals,” he said.