Seven children have been reported killed in a stampede of residents fleeing from bandits in Shimfida, Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State.
The incident occurred Thursday morning, a few hours after soldiers serving in a joint security task force were withdrawn from the community, residents told PREMIUM TIMES.
The soldiers were stationed at Government Secondary School, Shimfida, about 27 Kilometres from Jibia town, the local council headquarters, until their withdrawal on Thursday.
Kabir Haruna, the councillor for Shimfida ward in the local council, told PREMIUM TIMES that the soldiers had been in the town for about eight years.
He said their presence had provided the community a sense of protection from attack by bandits, thus the residents feared that the withdrawal of the soldiers on Thursday had suddenly made the community vulnerable.
Their fear appeared to be confirmed when they heard volleys of gunshots in the surrounding hills.
A leader of a civil society organisation in the state, Muntari TBO, told PREMIUM TIMES that the deadly stampede was triggered by the sounds of the gunshots, with the residents believing the bandits had launched an attack.
It was later found out that the bandits were only celebrating the exit of the soldiers from the area, a resident later said after the town had been deserted.
Mr TBO said the military and government did not inform the community ahead of the withdrawal of the soldiers.
Bara’u Muhammad, an indigene of Shimfida, residing in Jibia town, said over 1000 women and children fleeing Shimfida had arrived in Jibia town by Thursday afternoon.
“They are taking refuge at Tashar Furera in Pilot Primary School, Jibia. Others have crossed to the neighbouring Niger Republic via Gurbin Baure community,” Mr Muhammad said, confirming that Shimfida had been deserted.
He said many of the fleeing residents trekked to Jibia from Shimfida.
Mr Muhammad said the remains of the seven children were buried Thursday evening in Jibia, while the injured persons from the stampede were in hospital in Jibia.
“The councillor for Shimfida ward joined locals in funeral prayers in Jibia for the seven children who died from the stampede,” Mr Muhammad added.
The known phone contact of the police spokesperson in Katsina, Gambo Isah, did not connect as of Thursday evening when the reporter tried to reach him to comment on the incident.
Jibia is one of the 13 frontline local government areas in Katsina State for banditry attacks. Last year, the state government cut telecommunications networks in the area among other measures to check the activities of armed criminal groups.
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