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Darul-Salam: How Sect Shifted Base To Nasarawa

Though not as widely known as the Boko Haram sect which has been operating actively in the North-east of the country for over a decade, killing and maiming innocent citizens, the dangerous but inconspicuous terrorist organization known as Darul-Salam was first dislodged from Niger State over 11 years ago by the administration of former governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu.

The sect later re-grouped at Uttu community in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State in North-central Nigeria,  about 140 kilometers from the nation’s capital, Abuja.

A rescued malnourished child of one of the sect members eat rice at the Army super camp in Kenyehu Village in Toto Local Government area of Nasarawa State

However, a clearance operation on Wednesday, August 26 by troops of Operation Whirl Stroke followed an intelligence report which led to the rescue of over 410 women and children including family members of the terrorist group.

A community leader in the area who preferred anonymity while speaking with our reporter, said the Darul-Salam terrorists first took over a thick forest of about 600 square meters. They first disguised as herders who came to rear cattle and carry out farming activities while propagating  Islam.

According to him, farmers in the community started complaining about activities of the group after discovering that their crops were often being destroyed by cows which grazed in the farms.

“They first came in a few numbers with cows and created a camp while some of them were even farming until when there were reports that their cows sometimes destroyed farms,” he said.

Khadija Abdullahi, with her two daughters, Aisha, 8-year-old and Fatima, a 6-year-old, after she was abducted and impregnated by one of the sect members

“After sometime, the group started increasing in large numbers to the point that even Fulanis in a settlement close to their camp were forced to relocate, a situation which made people to start doubting what actually brought them to settle in the forest,” he said.

Another member of the community who also preferred anonymity said the residents became suspicious of activities of the group when some timber operators who went to cut down trees in the forest were kidnapped, including some farmers.

He said the group became very notorious when their numbers further increased and some of them even started wearing army uniforms and kidnapping people from their homes, farms and major highways, especially along the Abuja-Lokoja road.

“In fact, apart from kidnapping people from their homes and farms, they also opened fire on vehicles along Toto-Umaisha road and abducted whoever they wanted and took them into the bush,” he said.

He added that their activities became so worrisome that they went into villages in  large numbers with A-K 47rifles on motorcycles to buy foodstuff and return to the camp.

Some of the rescued women and children of the Darul-Salam group at a camp on Ugya, Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State

Daily Trust on Sunday further gathered from villagers in the area that the group also trained some of their children on shooting, bomb making and handling of explosives inside the camp.

It was further gathered that a section was  created inside the camp where the terrorists also taught children and some captives Islamic knowledge.

A housewife who was kidnapped but  rescued during the recent operation by troops, Khadija Abdullahi, told our reporter at the Army Super Camp in Kenyehu, Toto Local Government Area that her husband was killed by the group and their member got her pregnant after she was abducted along with her two kids from Gombe State to Toto forest in Nasarawa State.

Khadija, who is carrying a-nine months pregnancy, gave the names of her two daughters as Fatima and Aisha. She said the group took her and her children to their camp in Toto after killing her husband in Gombe.

“After they killed my husband, they took me and my two daughters to the bush where we had been in captivity for nine months,  one of them impregnated me,” she said.

She added: “In fact, I only woke up and saw soldiers shooting and killing them, even though I wouldn’t know if the one that impregnated me was also killed or escaped.”

A rescued women and children in Ugya, Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.

Our reporter who visited the village saw other rescued women and children awaiting  directives at the Army camp. It was further observed that a 16 year-old girl abducted by the terrorists, Aisha Umar, delivered a baby inside the camp.

Aisha, who looked devastated, could not  speak with our reporter as she breastfed her baby.

The chairman of the local government area,  Alhaji Nuhu A. Dauda, commended the troops for destroying the terrorists’ camp in the area, noting that it would not only check kidnapping and banditry but also bring peace to the area.

He disclosed that a summit would be called for security agencies, traditional rulers and stakeholders to ascertain whether normal activities, especially farming, could resume fully in the area.

“I must commend our gallant troops for their efforts in dislodging the criminals that had been terrorising and killing our people over the years. The activities of kidnappers and bandits have seriously affected the lives and property of my people,” he said.

Troops on August 26 stormed the forest and discovered what appeared like a bomb-making factory while some members of the group, including their women and children surrendered.

In 2009, over 3, 500 members of the sect were evacuated from an enclave 30 kilometres from Mokwa, Niger State, shortly after a fight between Boko Haram members and Nigerian security forces in Maiduguri, Borno State, which left nearly 1,000 people dead.

Experts said it appeared the group was amassing weapons ahead of imminent attacks.

The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said troops who busted the terrorists’ cell recovered explosives, arms and ammunition.

“Following aggressive intensive kinetic operations at identified bandits’ enclaves, not less than 410 members of the Darul Salam terrorist group, including women and children, surrendered to the troops of Operation Whirl stroke and other security agencies deployed at Uttu in Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa State,” Enenche said.

He said in the course of the operation, troops recovered several Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) making materials at the location including two scales, six rocket launcher bombs, one bag of fertilizer, half  bag of gun powder, ten locally made hand grenades, one Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) bomb fuse, one locally made Rocket Launcher, 13 Improvised rocket bombs, amongst others.

He said the camp was subsequently destroyed while troops combed the surrounding forests for fleeing members of the sect.

About four months ago, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State had expressed concern over the appearance of the sect and attributed the kidnappings and violent crimes in the state to the group.

It would be recalled that when the group was dislodged in 2009 in Niger State, its leader at the time, Malam Bashir Abdullahi Sulaiman, said they were not violent.

“We face Allah with all our actions. We are no threats. We’ve been living in this town for 16 years now. Let them come and investigate if for one day any of us has ever been arrested on any criminal or civil unrest.

“Our aim is to practice the proper ethics of Islam without associating with the sinful world. That was why we migrated from various states down here.”

When asked from where and what made them inhabit the area, he said  he and 20 others together with their families from Kano decided to migrate to the town and sought the permission of the village head of Masha in order to practice their religion without interference and corruption.

He added that their population grew and had so far reached 4,000, including women and children.

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