Rival armed groups terrorizing communities in Katsina State, Northwest Nigeria clashed at Illela village of Safana Local Government Area of the state.
According to a report by Daily Trust, the clash at Illela was between the foot soldiers of Mani Sarki and Dankarami who was backed by Abu Rada. Witnesses confirmed that the clash led to fatalities and injuries among members of the two opposing gangs.
Witnesses reported that Sarki, classified by the state government as a repentant bandit, was among the community of the violent groups in the forests seen as a black sheep. Having sealed an amnesty pact with the state officials Sarki reportedly moved to Illela village but not with his fighting force.
According to the paper, some gunmen led by Dan Da from Alhaji Dankarami took the offensive against Saraki’s position in Illela area but were repelled.
A source quoted by the newspaper said that a younger brother to Sarki Mani had previously kidnapped the wife of a member of the Dangwate group and was paid N500,000 ransom to secure her release.
According to the report “Sarki’s younger brother, identified as Chirwa, and his wife were killed while three others – Kabiru, Tanimu, Suleiman – were injured and presently receiving treatment in Katsina town” in the course of the attack.
Daily Trust said Dankarami, Dangwate and Mai Komi launched a reprisal attack to recapture prized weapons they lost during the attack. “They were said to have entered the Illela area around 5 pm on Thursday in their numbers. According to some residents, more than 300 armed men” were involved in the attack.
Another source told the paper, however, it was a clash of interests between those in support of a peace deal with the government and those against it.
“One of the Sarki-led members, Mani, who is in favour of a peace deal has left the forest and settled in Illela but did not surrender his weapons to the government. So, he is one of the targets of those who are not in favour of the peace deal.
“So, what brought the Dangwate faction to Illela was to get that man. When they came they began a house-to-house search in the bid to get him. When they got to the house of Sarkin Pawa Mu’azu, who is the leader of butchers, they found a Dane gun and suspected that he was amongst the vigilantes, who are also their enemies.”
“He told them he was not a vigilante but they shot and killed him.
The attackers spent about eight hours operating in the village according to witnesses, setting vehicles and shops ablaze while carting away many valuables. According to witnesses the gunmen nevertheless left “without accomplishing their mission of getting Mani who is in favour of peace with the government.”
The gunmen reportedly retreated to the forest and engaged the Dankarami-led gang in the course of which they killed scores. Some said more than 100 were killed, including children.
“Dankarami himself only narrowly escaped death because he was shot on the hand,” the Daily Trust source said.
Security forces were reported to have stayed back because it was a battle between two armed groups.