Soldiers withdrawn from Niger after deadly ambush

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Toops of the  Nigerian Army have dismantled their tents and withdrawn from communities in Niger State following the recent deadly ambush by terrorists, leading to the killing of six military personnel.

Two officers and four soldiers lost their lives last Friday in the Allawa community in the Shiroro Local Government Area of the state during an ambush by the terrorists.

The PUNCH learnt that following the withdrawal of the soldiers on Thursday, hundreds of residents, including women, children and the elderly have started vacating their ancestral homes and trekking several kilometres to safety.

A resident said they were shocked to find the soldiers dismantling their tents ahead of withdrawal from the communities and called on the Niger State Government to quickly intervene to avert any attack by the bandits.

According to one of the residents, who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity for lack of authorisation, the withdrawal of the soldiers came two days after a military vehicle stepped on a landmine along the Allawa-Pandogari Road, resulting in the casualty of an unspecified number of soldiers.

“We woke up on Thursday morning to find the soldiers dismantling their tents in readiness to leave the community. I don’t know if you are aware that on Tuesday, a military vehicle carrying some personnel on their way to Allawa stepped on an IED. There was a heavy casualty as many soldiers lost their lives while some were injured. The injured are in the hospital. The incident happened on Allawa-Pandogari road,”  the resident said.

It will be recalled that Tuesday’s incident occurred less than a week after the two officers, four soldiers, a vigilante and a hunter lost their lives in an ambush at Roro when terrorists ambushed them in Roro, Karaga, Rumace and other farming communities.

Another resident, who gave his name as  Yahuza Allawa, told the media that dozens of residents vacated their communities as early as 4 am on Thursday, trekking scores of kilometres and were heading towards Erena, Gwada, Kuta or Zumba for safety.

“We are leaving our communities now and there are insufficient motorcycles and vehicles to take us out as quickly as possible. We are afraid. We left our belongings behind because we could not carry so many things. So many other people have left already

“We are moving to either Erena, Gwada, Kuta or Zumba. And from Allawa to Erena, which is the only exit road for us, it is at least 42km and we are trekking. We cannot wait to be killed by these heartless bandits and Boko Haram. This is a serious issue, please help us report this issue,” Allawa said.

The residents lamented that with the withdrawal of the military personnel, they were now more vulnerable to attacks by these bandits and called on the state government to intervene immediately.

In the last one year, no fewer than 30 officers and men have lost their lives in attacks by the bandits and terrorists in Niger State.

Last August, 20 soldiers lost their lives while others, including vigilantes, sustained injuries during an ambush along the Zungeru-Tegina Road in the Wushishi LGA.

Less than 24 hours after that incident, a MI-171 NAF helicopter was on a casualty evacuation mission when it was downed by bandits at about 1.00 pm near Chukuba Village, Shiroro.

The crash was confirmed by the Nigeria Air Force authorities.  Unconfirmed reportS, however, said that the helicopter was shot down by bandits. The pilot died in the crash.

The PUNCH learnt from anonymous military sources that the military authorities complained that they could no longer bear the incessant killing of soldiers by bandits in the state.

When contacted, the Niger State Commissioner for Homeland Security, Bello Abdullahi, a retired Brigadier General, confirmed the withdrawal of the soldiers.

Abdullahi explained that the withdrawal was part of the arrangements by the military to restrategise on the best ways to tackle insecurity in the state.

He said, “The whole thing is about administrative arrangements by the military to restrategise to return in full strength.”

Efforts to get the Defence Operations spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, were unsuccessful as he could not be reached on his mobile line on Thursday night.

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