‘We can’t afford to let down our guards’. Nigerian Chief of Air Staff says
Islamic State (ISWAP) blamed for Pentecost Sunday massacre
Nigerian Air Force (NAF) A-29 Tucano planes killed 55 bandits involved in kidnapping for ransom in airstrikes this week in several locations in north central Nigeria. The NAF said in a press statement, that after the airstrikes, hostages were released.
Following criticisms from Nigerians over the growing insecurity and uncertainty wether the 2023 General Elections will hold, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, last week presided over a national security meeting and said he has given security forces the full freedom to deal with terrorists.
NAF said airstrikes in north central Kaduna state on Tuesday killed 28 members of a kidnapping-for-ransom gang, including a gang leader popularly known as Alhaji Shanono. It also said many others were injured.
Air Force Public Relations Director, Air Commodore Gabriel Gabkwet told reporters that authorities had received intelligence that the bandits were gathering in the area. He said the success of the raid led to the release of captives they held and confirmed the airstrikes did not destroy any civilian settlements.
Gabkwet said other airstrikes in northwestern Katsina state this week killed 27 bandits. The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao had briefed operational commanders of the urgency of dealing with the terrorists saying. ‘We can’t afford to let down our guards’.
On Tuesday, the Chief of Defence Staff(CDS), General Lucky Irabor revealed that joint security agents on August 1 arrested four terrorists who allegedly took part in the June church shooting in the town of Owo, in southwest Nigeria. The suspects, including the alleged mastermind of the attack, were arrested in Kogi State, which is close to Nigeria’s capital.
The CDS also confirmed that the attackers were members of the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP). On June 5 Pentecost Sunday, heavily armed men with assault rifles and explosives invaded the St. Francis Catholic Church killing over 50 worshippers and wounding over 80.
Irabor said the suspects could not be brought in front of reporters because of ongoing investigations.
“We’ve done quite a lot, and it’s my pleasure to let you know that starting with the Owo church attack, we have arrested those behind that dastardly act,” Irabor said.
Nigeria is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and a wave of criminal activity, especially kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the northwest.
The church attack was the first large-scale killing blamed on a terror group in southwest Nigeria.