At least 10 soldiers have been killed and an unconfirmed number of others wounded after an attack by armed groups locally known as bandits on a military facility in Birnin Gwari in the northwestern state of Kaduna in Nigeria.
Lagos-based Channels Television reported that the gunmen engaged soldiers at the base in a duel on Monday evening, citing security sources. Popular daily The Guardian said the invaders “came on motorcycles with heavy weapons including rocket-propelled grenade” and that the fight lasted two hours.
Neither the Nigerian government nor the military has confirmed the incident, which comes less than a week after a deadly attack on a passenger train in the same Kaduna state, leading to the death of dozens of people. At least 168 people are still missing from that attack.
In the days before that, bandits had also attacked an airport in the state.
Over the last decade, groups of armed bandits have kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people across northwest and central Nigeria, demanding ransoms and looting citizens, rich and poor. Consequently, millions of people have been displaced.
The armed groups have also targeted state installations and soldiers in recent weeks.
Residents of the northwest say the “bandits” operate as if they are above the law. In some villages, they have even become the law, taxing locals on a regular basis.
The bandits have operated from forest bases, including the one in Birnin Gwari, the same area as the military base.
Across Nigeria, there is a debate on their origins and whether they are working in tandem with Boko Haram, which has been waging war against the authorities since 2009, across the northeast.
Confidence MacHarry, security analyst at Lagos-based geopolitical advisory SBM Intelligence, said the latest attack was “consistent with jihadist terror ideology of destroying established state institutions which the military represents”.
“An attack on a military facility cannot be swept away as the actions of mere bandits,” MacHarry said. “The goal is to capture territory. As such, the government has to recalibrate its counterterrorism strategy in the northwest to factor this into existence. It also has to review the security of its military facilities in the region in a view to strengthening it against future attacks.”