The bandits, who attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train, are demanding the release of 16 top commanders and sponsors in government custody in exchange for the release of the over 100 individuals abducted from the derailed train on March 28.
Dependable security sources said the bandits carried out the violent attack on the train just to abduct passengers who could be used to bargain for the release of their commanders and sponsors in detention.
The PUNCH gathered on Monday that the arrest of the suspects had severely hampered the deadly activities of the bandits who are collaborating with the Boko Haram terrorist group to unleash malevolent attacks across the country.
The terrorists had on March 28 at Katari, Kaduna State, attacked the train which was heading for Kaduna from Kaduna.
After the attack, security agencies reported that eight bodies were recovered from the attack scene and 26 persons were injured
The Nigerian Railway Corporation said it was unable to establish contact with 163 passengers and seven crew members who boarded the train.
On Monday, multiple sources explained that the bandits in their ongoing negotiations with the Federal Government were demanding prisoners’ exchange.
The gang had last week released one of their hostages, the Managing Director, Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Hassan, due to his age. In a video showing the victim in their midst, the gunmen said the government knew what they wanted and threatened to kill the remaining hostages if their demands were not met.
On Sunday, the terrorists released another video where some of the captives were seen calling on the government to come to their rescue.
But a senior official said the terrorists were being hampered by the arrest of their top commanders, noting that their sources of funding had been greatly impacted by the arrest of their sponsors.
He stated, “The bandits have made contact (with the government) but the issue now involves the Interpol because they have international collaborators. Security operatives are working to identify their connection to Boko Haram.
“The bandits are after their people who are in custody. They are demanding the release of 16 sponsors and commanders in exchange for the abducted train passengers. That’s why they said in a video that the government knows what they want.”
“We arrested some of their commanders and those sponsoring them in Dubai and Nigeria. We have about 16 commanders and sponsors in custody, so they are demanding their release because their sources of funding are declining. I hope the authorities would not release the commanders and sponsors to them because we are getting information on the bandits from the suspects,” the source noted.
Commenting on the group’s threats to kill the hostages, the security officer argued that such an action would not give the bandits what they were demanding from the government.
“If they kill their hostages, they would not achieve what they are looking for. The fact is that they are being starved of funds and that is why they are making the threat and it is also the reason for the attack on the train. They attacked the train just to get government attention and negotiate the release of their commanders and sponsors,” he stated.
An intelligence official also corroborated the report that the bandits were demanding the release of commanders and ransom, noting that the marauders had been cooperating with Boko Haram fighters in their attacks in Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara, Katsina and others.
The official noted, “What they want is prisoners exchange and money. It is a lie that they don’t want money; they want both money and prisoners exchange. They would release the passengers in exchange for many of their members in custody. They are collaborating with Boko Haram to pool resources together and constitute a bigger security threat to the country.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the Military was not successful. As calls to the number of the Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Benard Onyeuko indicated it was not reachable.
He has yet to respond to message sent to him on the matter.However, a military source said the military does not negotiate with bandits
The source said, “It is not our duty to negotiate with the bandits or any other criminal elements. Ours is to fulfill our constitutional duties which we have been doing. “
Meanwhile, AFP reported that gunmen who attacked the train had released a video showing about two dozen of the hostages they kidnapped in the assault.
The images were the first indicator of how many passengers may have been abducted in the brazen raid, in which eight people were killed.
In the two-minute video, about 24 people are seen sitting in a forest area, including men and women. At least one man appears to be from South-East Asia while at least one another appears Caucasian.
Behind them a group of gunmen stand in a line.
“We are the passengers who left Abuja for Kaduna on Monday on March 28, 2022. We were seized on our way,” one man said in Hausa language in the video.
“Since then it is only us that knows the dire situation we are in, there are women and children, there are aged people with health challenges.”