Train attack: How security forces failed to act despite intelligence

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The Monday night attack on a Kaduna-bound passenger train arriving from Abuja came after repeated warnings by the intelligence service about the movement of bandits with a mission to attack the train service and other facilities.

The attack on the train, which had on board over 300 passengers was the most fatal attack on the train coming after three previous attempts on the service.

At least nine corpses were recovered from the scene of the attack on Tuesday while over 20 others sustained injuries from gunshots and stampede. Many passengers were also abducted by the kidnappers.

Senior security officials on Wednesday revealed that the existence of many intelligence reports warning of a planned operation by the criminal groups with one senior official describing the incident as “totally avoidable”.

Aside from the failure of the security forces to halt the planned attack, reports authoritatively gathered that the Kaduna State Security Council and the leadership of the 1 Division Nigerian Army headquarters had also separately requested the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) to suspend the late-hour shuttle between the two cities, an advisory that was however ignored.

Managing Director of the NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria confirmed that the NRC was written to stop the evening train.

He said, “They wrote to us that they suspected that they wanted to attack the train but that was in December/January. But we looked at it and said if there is something like that, they should find a solution to it and stopping the train is not the solution.

“And we don’t run night train. The last train leaves in the evening. We believe if we stop the running of trains, it means the terrorists have won.”

The trains are often provided with security from the police through its Railway Command.

When contacted last night, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said that they were not aware of any security report.

“I’m not aware of any intelligence report. You know the railway station has its own command, I will find out and get back to you,” Adejobi said on the telephone.

In a February 17 intelligence report, one of the security services had alerted of the arrival of “over 80 well-armed bandits” from the camp of notorious Zamfara bandit, Bello Turji, into Buruku Forest in Chikun Local Government of Kaduna State and establishing presence around Falalin Dutse and Rafin Dawa Danne.

The gunmen were said to have arrived Kaduna on the invitation of a banditry kingpin called Kwalba, with the intention of attacking the Kaduna-Abuja train. The bandits also reportedly penciled down the Rigasa Train Station and the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) as possible targets.

In a separate intelligence report privately shared with security agencies in Kaduna on March 23, it was reported that bandits on over 300 motorcycles had left Danjibga area of Zamfara State on an undisclosed mission to Rijana Forest through Birnin Gwari. Another detachment was said to have left for Kebbi and Niger States around the same time.

A senior security source in Kaduna confirmed to Daily Trust receiving reports of movement of Turji’s men to Kaduna, saying however that the intelligence was not authenticated.

But a source said it was the men of Halilu Sububu, not Turji, who were in Kaduna around this time, with some of them already back in their enclaves in Zamfara State.

The Kaduna security source, who did not want his name in print, said the attack was carried out by Boko Haram elements in collaboration with bandits.

Two sources; a local with knowledge of bandits’ activities and a senior intelligence officer in Abuja confirmed that a Kaduna-based bandits leader, Boderi, was involved in hatching the attack.

Boderi is notorious for masterminding a number of atrocious attacks in Giwa, Chikun, Igabi and Zaria Local Governments in Kaduna State, including the abduction of students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, in March last year and kidnapping of the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru in October of the same year.

While the civilian source said Boderi was responsible for the attack, the intelligence source said the banditry kingpin was only co-opted by terrorist groups who planned the attack.

“That was beyond bandits. It was a classic Boko Haram operation, you could see from how they used a command IED; an explosive that was detonated remotely on target,” the intelligence official said.

He said for a long time military and intelligence services have noted “A lot of movement of Boko Haram members into the forests in Kaduna around Kidandan, Rigachukun and on the way to Birnin Gwari where they chased out some bandits to take control”.

According to him, security agents have been on alert following reports from intercepted communication pointing to the possible attack but added that it was impossible to deploy troops permanently without specific knowledge of when the attackers will deploy.

“The early arrival of the troops on that day was because there was some level of alertness in view of the information at hand. It could have been worse”.

He said the many areas in Kaduna, especially around the location of the Monday attack are infested with regrouping Boko Haram elements, accusing residents of not providing helpful information to aid the work of security agents.