Nigerian gangster who abducted hundreds of school children surrenders

By AFP Time of article published Feb 9, 2021

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Aminu Abubakar

Kano - A Nigerian criminal gang leader behind the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolchildren in northwestern Katsina state in December has surrendered to authorities in an amnesty deal, officials said on Tuesday.

Auwalun Daudawa led dozens of gunmen who snatched students from their school hostels in the town of Kankara in a crime that sparked global outrage and highlighted growing instability in the country's northwest.

Northwestern Nigeria has been terrorised by criminal gangs who raid villages, steal cattle, kidnap for ransom and burn homes after looting, adding to security challenges in a country battling a decade-long jihadist insurgency.

More attacks by armed gangs in five districts across the northwest Kaduna state killed another 23 people in 24 hours, officials said on Tuesday.

The Kankara abductions happened when President Muhammadu Buhari was visiting his home state of Katsina. Some students managed to escape and officials said around 340 were freed days later after negotiations.

Daudawa surrendered to local officials on Monday with six of his gang members, the local government spokesman said in a statement.

"Auwalun Daudawa handed over the weapons and also... swore with the Holy Quran not to revert to his old ways," spokesman Zailani Bappa said.

Daudawa and his comrades surrendered 20 Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons and in exchange will not be prosecuted.

Most of the Kankara children were released after days in captivity following negotiations between the abductors and officials of Zamfara and Katsina states.

"Dozens of other armed bandits inside the forests have started contacting me, indicating their willingness to cease hostilities on condition that they would not be harassed afterwards," Daudawa told local media.

In Kaduna state, 23 people were killed in raids by armed gangs in 24 hours in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Kauru local government areas (LGAs), state internal security commissioner Samuel Aruwan said.

The deadliest attack was in Birnin Gwari, where 10 people were killed.

Those attacks followed violence over the weekend when 19 people were killed when armed men raided two villages in Kaduna.

Forest hideout

Bandits hide in camps in Rugu forest, which straddles Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states. Despite the deployment of troops in Zamfara and Katsina states deadly attacks persist.

The "bandits" have killed around 8,000 people since 2011 and forced more than 200,000 to flee their homes, according to an estimate by Brussels-based ICG.

The gangs' tactics include attacking travellers at bogus checkpoints on the highway and abducting them. Hostages are usually released after ransom payment.

The state government has sought instead to broker peace deals with the bandits, offering them amnesty in exchange for surrendering their arms.

Daudawa's surrender was part of the amnesty offered to bandits, said the statement.

Security analysts have warned of infiltration of criminal gangs in the region by jihadists who are conducting an Islamist insurgency in the northeast.

Following the schoolboys' abduction, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility in a video showing some of the children in a bush.

Security sources told AFP the abductions were carried out by Daudawa in collaboration with two bandits with a strong following, on the orders of Shekau.

Daudawa, 43, was an armed robber and a cattle rustler before he turned to gun-running, security sources said.

He began bringing in weapons from Libya, where he had received training from jihadists, selling them to bandits, the sources told AFP.

He forged an alliance with Boko Haram and became their gunrunner, taking weapons the group seizes from the Nigerian security forces in raids and ambushes and selling them to bandits.

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