The Nigerian Air Force says the Air Task Force of “Operation Diran Mikiya’’ has successfully degraded several notorious armed bandits hideouts in Shamashale village and Rugu forest in Zamfara.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.
“The attacks, which were executed in support of ground troops in Sector 2 of Operation `Sharan Daji’, were planned based on credible intelligence that the kingpin and his group of armed bandits were using an abandoned primary school in Shamashale.’’ he said.
He said that the bandits also used some makeshift settlements in nearby Rugu forest in the Eastern part of Zamfara as bases for their operations.
Daramola explained that the attack at Shamashale was conducted on August 15 following further confirmatory Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions that revealed the presence of several armed bandits in the area.
“Accordingly, the ATF dispatched two combat helicopters to attack the location. During the attack, some bandits carrying sophisticated high calibre weapons were seen trying to flee the area.
“Some were on motorcycles carrying AK-47 rifles and, rather than dropping their weapons and surrendering, attempted to shoot at the helicopters; hence they were neutralised.
“Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) conducted on August 16 confirmed that the kingpin’s main hideout had been severely degraded and human intelligence sources later availed pictures of some of the slain bandits”, he said.
Daramola said that items recovered from the armed bandits include two General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), two AK 47 rifles, 100 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and two mobile phones.
“The adjoining settlement camps within Rugu Forest, which had earlier been confirmed by HUMINT sources to be inhabited by only bandits, were attacked on August 18.
“A ground attack aircraft and two combat helicopters struck the camps in successive waves; first targeting the shelters and then executing follow-on attacks to ensure the threat posed to the local villagers was adequately dealt with.
“The ATF would continue to dominate the area through armed reconnaissance and air interdiction missions to completely decimate the armed bandits in order to ensure a return to normalcy in Zamfara and other States in the North West,” he said.
The NAF spokesman advised all persons involved in armed banditry in the area to renounce violence, surrender to security agencies and hand over their weapons.