Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Zaria's Week of Bomb Blasts

Kaduna — Within the spate of one week, the ancient city of Zaria, famous for its numerous higher institutions of learning, witnessed bomb blasts, assassinations and arrests over links with terrorists' activities. Weekly Trust reports

It all started with an explosion that claimed two lives, destroyed about 20 houses and injured scores of people. Men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Sunday, September 30, stormed a resident suspected to be occupied by a member of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, alias Boko Haram, at Gaskiya layout, Zaria.

A fierce fighting ensued between a combined team of soldiers, State Security Service (SSS) and police with the suspected members of the Boko Haram during the early hours of Sunday. Heavy explosion followed. The sound of the blast devastated the neighbourhood. Panic and anxiety pripped the residents of the area and the entire ancient city.

Yet to recover from the shock of Sunday's attack, reports filtered around the city on Tuesday, October 2, that unknown gunmen have attacked and killed a businessman, whose name was given as Isma'ila Danbaba. The gunmen carted away the car belonging to the businessman who was into the bureau de change business. The murder took place at Kwangila, Zaria. Three other mysterious episodes unfolded on Wednesday, October 3. Early in the morning, the JTF men arrested a staff of Kaduna Refinery suspected of having links with Boko Haram in his Kwarbai, Zaria residence. The staff, Aminu Mahmoud Dambo, was said to be asleep when men of the JFT stormed his house and forced their way in.

The spokesperson of the Army Depot, Zaria, Captain Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the operation was initiated when the Army received an intelligence report linking Dambo with some crimes. "When we received the intelligence, our men were mobilized and traced the house. On arrival, somebody opened fire from the house and this forced our men to use force in gaining access into the house. After we arrested him and 20 other people, we demolished the house.

"Investigation is on and it is after that we can know if he has a case to answer. No bomb exploded in the house, it is only that we demolished the house, because there were some dangerous things in the house that may harm law abiding residents of the area," said Captain Abdullahi.

However, a close relative of Dambo, who craved for anonymity, alleged that the men of the JTF planted the bomb that exploded in the house. "They (JTF) came to the house at about 4am and they ordered him to open his gate. Dambo refused to open the door, because it was not long when armed robbers attacked some residents of the area. When the soldiers opened fire on the house, Dambo also fired back, because he also has his licensed-gun; thinking that it was miscreants attacking him. However, when Dambo realized that they were not fake soldiers, he opened the gate and that was how they arrested Dambo with his two wives and children.

"After that, the soldiers used bomb to destroy the house. It was not true that there were explosives in the house. The soldiers bombed the house and later at about 3pm they came back with bulldozer to demolish what remains of the house, to give the impression that the house was demolished. All residents here witnessed when the Army-bomb exploded and they all heard the sound. What we want now is justice, because Dambo was born here in Zaria and everyone here knows his character and the type of person he is. It is not proper for security operatives to hide under certain disguises and be victimizing innocent citizens," Dambo's relative said.

The Head of Public Affairs Unit of Kaduna Refinery, Abdullahi Idris, has confirmed to Weekly Trust that Dambo is their staff.

At present, Dambo is being detained at the Army Depot, Zaria but the soldiers had released about 13 people out of the 21 they claimed to have arrested.

Members of the Kwarbai community on Thursday held a meeting to decide the steps to take over the arrest and the continued detention of Dambo.

Also on same Wednesday, unknown gunmen gunned down a mobile police officer at a junction in Kwangila, Zaria. Police in Zaria have said up till now, they are still searching for the killers of their man and that of the bureau de change businessman.

Another blast was recorded on Wednesday night on Uche Road in Sabon Gari, Zaria where seven people sustained different degrees of injuries.

The blast that occurred at a busy centre, which houses beer palours, sex workers' homes and other recreational activities, also caused anxiety and panic among residents of the area.

Spokesman of the Army Depot, Zaria, Captain Ibrahim Abdullahi, said soldiers moved to the area immediately after receiving the report of the blast to provide security.

Police in Zaria said, five people sustained injuries from the attack but eyewitness said seven people were injured by the blast. The police described the incident as a minor blast "and all those that sustained injuries were treated at hospital and discharged."

As fear of the unknown continued to rage in the minds of Zaria residents, soldiers on Thursday, October 4, again stormed the residence of a baker, Malam Lurwanu Mai Biredi, on Alaramma Street, Tudun Jukun, Zaria. They arrested him after ransacking his house over allegation of having links with Boko Haram. Mai Biredi was, however, released by the soldiers later in the evening. The soldiers said they did not found him wanting.

Weekly Trust investigations yesterday revealed that residents of Zaria are now living in a perpetual state of fear, as no one is sure of his/her safety. The residents said they are being fearful, because events of the week had revealed that the members of the Boko Haram can strike at will "or soldiers can storm one's house and tag him Boko Haram suspect."

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