Gunmen suspected to be bandits have attacked a motorcade of intending pilgrims from Isa Local Government in Sokoto state allegedly leaving three police personnel dead in the process.
The Pilgrims were on their way to the state capital to be airlifted to the Holy Land for this year’s hajj before they were ambushed
Sources in the area said the assailants laid in wait for the vehicles conveying the intending pilgrims from Isa to Sultan Abubakar III International Airport to kidnap them but were repelled by the team of the security personnel accompanying the intending pilgrims.
Some of the sources confirmed the bandits had allowed the first vehicle carrying the security personnel to go on ahead before opening fire on them.
The security personnel were said to have engaged the gunmen in a gun duel for several hours, thereby stopping them from abducting any of the intending pilgrims in which three of the officers reportedly lost their lives in the process.
It was also confirmed that two vehicles conveying the intending pilgrims made it to the airport, while the remaining vehicle returned the pilgrims to their local government.
A source from Isa, who resides in Sokoto metropolis, Salihu Mustapha, said the convoy was ambushed by the gunmen.
“You know it’s only one mobile network that has served in the area, so the information we’ve so far is still sketchy but I was told by neighbours, whose father is among the intending pilgrims that the bandits opened fire on the vehicle conveying the pilgrims.
“He, however, told me that the mobile policemen escorting the convoy fought back and repelled the attack,” he said.
“You know there is a very thick forest around Gundumi area which gives the bandits cover anytime they want to strike. The pilgrims were attacked around that axis” he said.
Confirming the incident, the Sokoto State Government in a statement signed by the governor’s spokesperson, Muhammad Bello, said the intending pilgrims were attacked “on their way to the state capital for take-off to this year’s pilgrimage.”
The Government however, said the pilgrims had been rescued and were unscathed.
Bello, quoting the state Commissioner for Information, Isah Bajini-Galadanchi, said,”all of the intending pilgrims, their relatives who were accompanying them to Sokoto Hajj camp and the security men escorting them, were momentarily held up by suspected bandits operating on the corridor linking the eastern part of the state, arrived safely in Sokoto, the capital city.
“Already the contingents have been received by Government officials and are being processed for their onward journey to the Holy Land.”
The Executive Secretary of the Sokoto State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Shehu Dange, also confirmed the attack.
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The Sokoto police spokesperson, Sanusi Abubakar, did not respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the attack.
Sokoto State, like many states in Nigeria’s North-west region, is bedevilled by incessant attacks on rural communities and travellers by gunmen locally called bandits.
Apart from killing some of their victims, the criminals also kidnap others for ransom. They also indulge in the rustling of cattle. They have killed hundreds of people in the region and many more have been kidnapped.
The insecurity in the region has also led to the displacement of millions of people.
Isa, Sabon Birni, Goronyo, Wurno, Rabah, are among the areas worst hit by the bandits crisis in the state.
When contacted the acting Public Relation Officer of the State, Police Command, ASP Ahmad Rufa’i, said, he was not officially briefed about the death of his colleagues in the incident.