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More Residents Speak On Alleged Helicopter-Aided Terror Attack In Kaduna

Residents of villages in Kajuru reported sighting a helicopter during a terror invasion this week. Many assume this means the terrorists now have access to attack aircraft, but the facts on the ground do not support this claim.

Joshua has some victims of the June 5 terror attack currently seeking shelter in his home in Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State,  Northwest Nigeria

He tells HumAngle that victims of the attack had initially thought their attackers were supported by an aircraft overhead but soon discovered that it beamed its light on them through the night without killing anyone. This information corroborates the account of another resident, Ibrahim, who says that the aircraft did not kill anyone as they ran.

“We started running. It flew over Unguwan Maikori. But it didn’t kill anyone,” Ibrahim from Bante village said before explaining how he made it out alive – “I entered a river when the aircraft flew overhead.”

Referring to the terrorists, he adds, “you would think they were soldiers.”

Armed with rifles, the terrorists had stomped the area and chased people around Dogon Noma and Unguwan Mai Yashi, Bala Amana (not real name) narrated. 

“After the shelling, those on the ground shot at residents up to about 6 p.m., and some people have still not been found. Earlier, the death toll was about 20,” Amana said. But Adara leaders in the LGA put the number at 32 persons after what they alleged was a “helicopter-aided attack by terrorists.” 

Some of the victims, mainly women, ran through the night and arrived at Maraban Kajuru on Monday morning, June 6, HumAngle gathered.

Terrorists had, on that fateful day, arrived on motorcycles and burnt two churches – Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Unguwan Maikori and ECWA Dogon Noma.

“They ransacked houses and took properties, including clothing. They mostly killed men, about 32 with about two women,” Joshua, whose brother narrowly escaped, said.

After residents heard the sound of the aircraft, they feared for their lives, thinking perhaps it was not there to protect them.

Efforts made by HumAngle to reach the Kaduna Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Muhammad Jalige, via phone failed. 

However, the state government has denied that the terrorists deployed a helicopter during the operation. Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan described them as “untrue accounts,” explaining that the aircraft belonged to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) and was despatched under Operation Whirl Punch.

“[It] had earlier scanned the first two locations and sighted burnt houses and properties on fire,” he said. “The helicopter intercepted the bandits at the last location (Ungwan Maikori) and engaged them as they retreated, before the arrival of ground troops to the general area.”

It is not the first time speculations will be made about the use of aircraft by terrorists. Conspiracy theories and misinformation around the subject are common regarding the crises in both northwestern and northeastern Nigeria.

In one fact-check published in Dec. 2021, HumAngle debunked claims that a helicopter was supplying materials to an armed group in the Northwest. In March last year, there had also been false claims about a runway used by terrorists in Zamfara to smuggle arms and gold. The picture was actually of a rough strip in Guatemala.

More attacks

On Wednesday, June 8, terrorists came to Kasuwan Magani around midnight and kidnapped two people in Unguwan Fada. They were about 20 in number, Amana said. “They didn’t shoot anyone. When people raised the alarm, they ran off. They later left, passing through Jan Wuriya.” 

Again, in the afternoon, they went to Kafari, a settlement close to Kujama and Kajuru, kidnapped people and then blocked the highway. Kafari is known for being a kidnapping hotspot. This trend has since forced its residents to flee and seek refuge elsewhere. By the end of 2021, many dared go home only at daybreak to tend to their crops and leave before dark.

“Two months ago, they came through the same Jan Wuriya, shot and burned down an army vehicle,” Amana added.

Amana insists this is not the first time Kajuru is experiencing such an attack. According to him, in Feb. 2022, a green-painted aircraft, army colour, burned a village in Iburu, still in Kajuru LGA. It killed a woman, and houses were destroyed.

Past incidences have shown that security forces conduct air raids around suspected terror camps within Kaduna State, which may have been one of such cases. For example, when victims of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Kakau Daji, in Chikun LGA were in captivity, a captive recalled four air raids that forced their captors to move them. 

There have, however, been several instances of civilians becoming casualties of ‘accidental’ air bombardments. Reports also suggest some security personnel may be aiding terrorists in their activities, especially through the sale of arms. 

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Nathaniel Bivan

Nathaniel Bivan is Features Editor at HumAngle. He tweets @nathanielbivan

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