New reports claim that the Nigerian security forces in Zamfara and neighbouring states have launched one of their largest operations against the armed gangs, known locally as bandits, hence an extension of the shutdown on all telecommunication services in the states.
Last week, shocking reports hit the media space detailing a violent takeover of bandits in Zamfara State.
Looking to disrupt the armed groups’ communications, the country’s telecoms regulator ordered operators to shut their towers in Zamfara as the military began raids and airstrikes on bandit hideouts.
A security aide to Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari said telecommunication services were now also shut in 13 of that state’s 34 districts on the border with Zamfara.
“The shutdown is meant to stop bandits from Zamfara moving into Katsina state to use telecom services for their terrorist activities,” Ibrahim Ahmed Katsina said.
“For now the shutdown affects 13 local governments to aid ongoing security operations but we will not hesitate to expand the shutdown where necessary,” Katsina said.
Northwest and central Nigeria have long been plagued by criminals gangs who raid communities, stealing cattle and kidnapping residents for ransom after looting and burning homes. But the violence has escalated this year and bandits have turned their sights on schools and colleges to abduct hundreds of pupils in a series of mass kidnappings.
Heavily-guarded bandit camps dot the Rugu forest that straddles the northern states of Kaduna, Katsina Zamfara and Niger.
Hundreds of troops aided by gunships and fighter jets launched offensives on Saturday on bandits camps in the Shinkafi area of Zamfara state, security sources have said.
Past military campaigns and amnesty deals with bandits sought by local governors have failed to end the attacks.
Under pressure over worsening insecurity in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered security chiefs to find urgent ways to curb violence in the northwest even as the country battles a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the country’s northeast.