The Nigerian military and the police have given conflicting accounts on the students of an Islamic school (Islamiyya) in Katsina, who were rescued from bandits on Saturday.
While the military claims it took the lead in the operation which led to the rescue, the police say its men led the operation but were assisted by the local vigilante and troops.
There are also discrepancies in the number of students rescued.
The military said it rescued 39 pupils while the police said 80 pupils and four abducted adults were rescued from the bandits.
The accounts of both indicate there was a sort of collaboration amongst the three: military, police and vigilantes. Both the police and military, however, sought to claim the higher credit by statements they released afterwards.
The kidnap occurred in Dandume Local Government Area of Katsina.
Residents said the kidnap occurred around 11:20 p.m. at Mahuta community while the victims, mostly young girls, were on a procession celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
The development came less than a week after 344 school children were abducted from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in the state. The Kankara students were released on Thursday after negotiations between the government and the kidnappers.
Police claim glory
The police, through its Katsina State spokesman, Gambo Isah, immediately released a statement stating that one of its divisional police officer “led a team of vigilantes and Sharan Daji (mostly soldiers and allied security agents)” who rescued 80 pupils and four adults.
“On receipt of the report, the DPO led Operations Puff Adder, Sharan Daji and Vigilante group to the area and engaged the bandits into a fierce gun duel. Subsequently, the teams succeeded in dislodging the bandits and rescued all the eighty four (84) kidnapped victims and recovered all the twelve rustled cows.”
“Search parties are still combing the area with a view of arresting the injured bandits and/or recovery of their dead bodies. Investigation is ongoing,” the police spokesperson said.
The Defence Headquarters, on Sunday, however, said the troops of Operation Hadarin Daji “in conjunction with Nigeria Police and local vigilante on Saturday, rescued 39 pupils”.
The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, John Enenche, in a statement on Sunday, however, said the troops received a distress call at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday from locals at Mahuta village that suspected bandits were moving with unconfirmed numbers of Islamiya children mostly girls and rustled cattle.
He said the troops “mobilised to the scene, laid ambush and blocked bandits’ route along Daudawa-Kadisau and road Sheme Mairuwa and Unguwar Audu village.”
According to him, “while patiently waiting for the bandits at the ambush and blocking position, troops established contact with bandits and engaged them”.
“During the fierce battle, troops superior fire power forced bandits to abandon the children and the rustled cattle thereby forcing the bandits to flee in disarray into the forest.
“Troops thereafter, searched the general area and rescued the 39 kidnapped girls in addition to the recovery of eight rustled cattle.
“The victims have been reunited with their families while the recovered cattle handed to the owners,” he said.
Mr Enenche said “the troops had dominated the general area with aggressive patrol to forestall further occurrence”.
He also “commended the locals and vigilantes for their cooperation in tackling the security challenges in the state”.
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