Troops of the Nigerian Army 1 Division Kaduna, under Operation Harbin Kunama III, have arrested 61 bandits and neutralized 24 others, the General Officer Commanding the Division, Major.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, has said.
Yahaya, who made the disclosure at a news briefing in Kaduna on Wednesday, said that 20 kidnapped victims were rescued in the course of the operation.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the operation, which began on May 10, covers Kaduna, Niger and Kano states.
According to the GOC, a total of 478 livestock consisting of 374 cattle, 104 sheep and goats, 56 assorted arms and 24 motorcycles, as well as N1.1 million and some fake American dollars were also recovered from the suspects.
The exercise commenced on May 10 as directed by the Chief of Army Staff following incessant armed banditry, kidnapping and others violent criminal activities in the North West.
Yahaya explained that the target of the operation was to block strategic locations at the fringes contiguous to epicentre of banditry activities in Zamfara.
It was “to contain and neutralize the fleeing bandits from forests in Zamfara, Katsina and Kebbi while still conducting other activities across our area of responsibility in support of civil authority”.
He added: “Accordingly, 1 Division mobilized and deployed troops on special clearance and blocking force operations in the 3 formations under the command namely, 3 Bridge Kano, 31 Artillery Bridge Minna and 1Division Garrison Command Kaduna, whose areas of responsibilities either have direct access route or share common boundary with Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara States.
“One of the most important achievement is the relative peace attained in the fringes and forest areas bordering Zamfara, Kebbi and Katsina States which were hitherto beehive of banditry and others criminal activities.”
The GOC added that the troops have continued to conduct patrols, raids and other operations to dominate the environment and deny bandits freedom of action.
He said: “Our main focus is in taking the fight to bandits, pursuing them in their camps and hideouts for destruction.”
Yahaya called on residents to avail the troops with credible and timely information instead of only reporting when bandits and criminals have attacked and fled.
He said: “On our part, we are stepping up in intelligence gathering in conjunction with other security agencies and stakeholders and that is what has accounted for some of our recent gains and successes.”
The GOC said the Division is taking proactive measures which include sustaining the tempo of Exercise Harbin Kunama III operation to boost the confidence of local communities, to enable them go back to farm and pursue other lawful means of livelihood.