Enugu, Katsina — No fewer than 50 people have lost their lives to attacks by bandits and auto crash in Katsina and Enugu States, respectively.
While 29 villagers were reportedly killed by the marauding bandits in fresh onslaughts on communities in Dandume and Faskari Local Government Areas of Katsina State, 21 schoolchildren died in an auto crash in Mgbowo community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The Katsina State Police Command, however, said the bandits killed 12 villagers and set some houses ablaze.
The bandits also killed four vigilantes and one security operative.
The separate attacks on the farming communities, according to residents, occurred yesterday when most of the victims were still sleeping.
While 25 people, mostly women, children and the aged, were massacred in Diskiru community of Dandume Local Government Area, four others were killed in Unguwar Baki community of Faskari Local Government Area, both in Katsina State.
THISDAY gathered that others were injured in the attacks while some women and children were abducted. Many others fled into the bush during the attacks.
In Diskiru community, THISDAY gathered that the over 100 bandits, who stormed the town around 4 am, riding on scores of motorcycles and armed with sophisticated weapons. They were said to have been shooting sporadically, resulting in the death of 25 persons on the spot.
It was learnt that while some of the bandits held Diskiru community hostage, others operated in surrounding villages, moving from house to house, abducting residents and carting away cows, sheep and other valuables.
One of the survivors in Diskiru, Mr. Maipata Almustapha, told THISDAY on the phone that the bandits operated freely for about three hours without a response from security operatives before they withdrew into their hideouts in adjoining forests.
He said many residents of Diskiru and Unguwar Baki were still missing despite efforts of security personnel who arrived the scene "after the attacks" to rescue them.
He said: "The bandits attacked Diskiru community in Dandume Local Government and killed 25 people who are mostly children, women and our grandparents. They also slaughtered four people in Unguwar Baki community of Faskari Local Government Area.
"As I speak to you, many women and children are still missing in these communities. We believe they have been kidnapped by the bandits. We are appealing to security agencies and the government to rescue them and free us from bandits who had captured many villages in the state."
Almustapha called on the government at all levels to provide more facilities for the police and other security agents to enable them to tackle banditry, kidnapping, rape and other heinous crimes bedeviling the state.
However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Gambo Isah, who confirmed the Diskiru attack to journalists yesterday, said the bandits killed 12 persons and set ablaze some houses.
Isah, a Superintendent of Police, who described the rampage as a reprisal, said: "Yes, they attacked a village called Diskiru in Dandume Local Government Area, and it was a reprisal.
"Last week, the bandits came and they didn't find it easy with the villagers because about three of the bandits were killed. So they went and regrouped and came back. They came with over 200 of them on motorbikes, each carrying AK-47 rifle; they even came with a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG).
"They killed as many as they could; they killed 12 of the villagers and set many houses ablaze. The DPO learnt about the situation and he called for reinforcement from the military, Operation Sahel Sanity.
"Based on the intelligence that we had, we learnt that the bandits were going to pass through a cattle route that went into Faskari LGA. So, we alerted the officers there and they laid siege, and, fortunately, they ran into the siege.
"But unfortunately, they came in numbers and got into a gun duel with our men, then forced themselves to pass through the ambush. As a result of that, one of our security personnel lost his life and four of the vigilantes were killed by the bandits.
"Reinforcement from the air force was sought and they came and followed after the bandits. The report I have here with me was that so many of them were killed by the fighter jets."
FRSC Confirms 21 School Children Dead in Enugu
The Enugu State Command of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has confirmed the death of 21 school children in the auto crash in Mgbowo community in Awgu LGA of the state.
The Sector Commander of FRSC in the state, Mr. Ogbonna Kalu, told journalists that the accident occurred on Wednesday evening.
According to him, the accident occurred when a trailer lost control and rammed into a school bus conveying the children from Presentation Nursery and Primary School, Awgu, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Awgu.
He blamed the accident on the trailer, which has a mechanical fault, resulting in the loss of control while descending a sloppy and curved road at Nkwo Awgu junction.
He said many others, including roadside artisans, were critically injured.
Kalu said many parents had taken their children to different hospitals before officers of the command arrived at the scene of the accident, adding that the school bus had 51 school children, including primary and secondary, a driver and two teachers.
He commiserated with the parents of the children who lost their lives and the Catholic Diocese of Awgu.