BY Our Correspondent
Eleven victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack have been released, the negotiator between the terrorist group Ansaru and the Federal Government, Malam Tukur Mamu, has said.
The negotiator’s newspaper Desert Herald reported today that their release came as a result of a series of “robust engagement on the approval of the Federal Government with Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Gumi’s media consultant, Mal Tukur Mamu (Dan-Iyan Fika), as the middle man and lead negotiator.”
Many other hostages, however, remain in custody.
The victims were abducted when a Kaduna-bound train was derailed by the terrorists in March.
The names of those released, consisting of six women and five men, were given as Jessy John, Amina Ba’aba Mohammed (Gamba), Rashida Yusuf Busari, Hannah Ajewole and Amina Jibril, Najib Mohammed Daiharu, Gaius Gambo, Hassan Aliyu, Peace A. Boy and Danjuma Sa’idu.
The newspaper said the 11 victims have been airlifted to Abuja for medical evaluation and treatment before they are reunited them with their families.
The Desert Herald revealed that some retired Army generals and a professor at Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, known for his involvement in negotiations with bandits in order to end banditry, were in the team of experts that contributed to facilitating the victims’ release.
Mamu said he was handpicked for negotiation by the terrorists because they trusted him, as a journalist, to “deliver their exact message,” pointing out that prior engagement with the security agencies was stalled due to what they called “breach of trust and loss of confidence”.
He recalled that due to similar setbacks the abductors had initially vowed to stop feeding their victims and start killing them if the government did not address their grievances, including “the release of our teenage children and colleagues that were arrested”.
“But through constructive mediation and engagement and with the support of the security agencies, the DH publisher was able to successfully douse that tension and the initial threat with the abductors withdrawing the threat for execution etc for two weeks while talks continued,” he said.
The newspaper reported that contrary to the terrorists’ earlier commitment to release all the women in their custody, a total number of 11 victims were released on Saturday, June 11, 2022.
The male victims were said to have been released on health grounds as part of the request made by the negotiating team while the release of the women was part of the agreement reached with the abductors.
It stated that all the women had been scheduled to be released in the first batch while negotiations continued, but the abductors cut the number because of the government’s demand that anyone with life-threatening injuries or illnesses should also be released.
According to the report, the abductors had initially insisted that the only condition they would accept to start negotiating the release of their victims was when government released their teenage children unconditionally, but Mamu insisted that no government would accept such a bargain as they must also show signs of goodwill and make acceptable compromises by way of releasing some of the victims.
Mamu said with the “historic” release of the train victims today, negotiations to release the remaining victims will continue.
He said: “We have succeeded in building confidence now. We will do everything to sustain it in the interest of the innocent victims that are still in captivity. It’s a painful and frustrating process but it must be done if we are to secure the precious lives of the remaining victims.
“The good news is our collective efforts have succeeded in securing the release of 11 of the victims so far. With the continued support of the FG all the remaining victims will be release soon Insha Allah.”
He commended President Buhari “for understanding the gravity of the crisis and for giving directives to the security agencies.”
Mamu added: “The CDS, Gen. Irabo, has done excellently well under the circumstance. The Army and the DSS have played the crucial role. There is no military solution to this predicament.”
He also lauded the behind-the-scene effort of his boss, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi” who he said “was involved from the day I started.”
“In fact, I accepted that role because of his directives to that effect. Even the final arrangement of how and the safest place to get the victims was arranged and coordinated by him,” he said.
On the demand of the terrorists that their children should be released by the government or whether money exchanged hands during the negotiation, the publisher said: “I think it is the government that is supposed to respond to that question. We are only concerned stakeholders with the privilege to compliment government efforts, but I can assure you and I can confirm that no money is involved.
“I believe the urgent priority now for the government and us is how to safely secure the release of the remaining victims.
“Even after that is done, there should be security, especially on the rail lines, and that can only be achieved through mediation, not the use of force because it is now very clear to everybody that our roads, our rail lines are vulnerable to attacks. Using the train, especially for Abuja-Kaduna travels in view of the decaying condition of that road and its security implications, remains the safest way to ensure and guarantee passengers’ safety.
“It is now clear that if government did not explore the opportunity to dialogue, especially with this particular armed group(s), no one can guarantee total safety of passengers on the rail lines and the government will continue to lose millions in revenue.
“What we achieved today after nearly three months of the abduction is the power of dialogue and engagement which the use of force cannot achieve.
“Our security agencies are very much capable of confronting them but there’s a big dilemma whenever the lives of innocent citizens are involved, when they can be used as human shield, and when there’s little intelligence to dictate and stop impending attacks.”
With the latest development, he revealed his decision to withdraw from the negotiation henceforth, citing “personal reasons”.
Mamu said: “I want to put it on record that for personal reasons I will henceforth disengage from the voluntary service of this ongoing dialogue to secure the release of the remaining victims.
“Already, I have succeeded in opening a channel of communication and building trust between the representatives of the government and the abductors. I have also succeeded in dousing the tension and earlier threat of execution.
“I believe FG can now explore this opportunity to ensure that the remaining victims are released in good time. Even though the release of the eleven victims is a huge milestone I’m personally disappointed that they failed to give us all the women as we earlier agreed. But I believe even if it’s one life we succeeded in securing the reward is unquantifiable before Allah.”
However, he called on the government to declare the construction of the Abuja-Kaduna road “a national emergency”, arguing that it is unacceptable in view of consistent instances of bandit attacks and kidnappings for government to spend more than five years without reaching 30 percent of that critical road project.
He said bandits are taking advantage of the poor condition of the road to freely attack passengers while security agencies are finding it difficult to promptly reach attack locations because of the bad condition of the road.
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