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Terror Leader Says Vigilante Groups Forced Him To Carry Arms, Tired Of Violence

Notorious terror leader Bello Turji says his offer to embrace peace has nothing to do with the ‘false stories’ of military campaigns in Northwest Nigeria.

Bello Turji, a notorious terror leader operating in Northwest Nigeria, says his terror activities on villages in Zamfara State were retaliations for extrajudicial killings of his people in the state by vigilante groups.

Turji said in an audio message obtained by HumAngle that he was willing to stop his war on innocent villagers because he was tired of the ongoing killings in the state.

He said he was ready to embrace peace in response to a cleric, Murtada Assada, who called him to lay down his arms.

Turji mentioned in the nine-minute audio message that some of his people used to be cattle rustlers and petty thieves. Still, they were subjected to brutal extrajudicial killings such as butchering and burning to death.

The terror kingpin is notorious for being a leader to terrorists known locally as ‘bandits’, and cattle rustlers in Zamfara, before they evolved to terrorising residents, according to his profile.

He went on to say that, although they are all Nigerians, vigilante groups had been attacking them for a long time but no one had spoken up for them until they began retaliating. 

“You must understand that the vigilante groups and we are not doing a good job. I wasn’t born with arms, but I was forced to carry them. Many of my people were also compelled to carry weapons,” he said.

“There was a time when we didn’t have a single gun. For generations, we were nothing more than herders. Then vigilante squads were dispatched to us.”

“Some of those accused of cattle rustling or stealing did not deserve to be killed. We know that a thief’s hand or leg should be chopped (according to Islamic law), but even if you stole a hen, they will kill, butcher, or burn you to death as if we were not Muslims,” Turji explained.

Turji, on the other hand, stated that his previous letter to some traditional rulers urging them to intervene was not sent because they feared Nigerian soldiers. After all, he said, they are still safe in their places.

“All of the reports that soldiers have increased their attacks on us are false. We’d had nothing happen to us. It was all rumour. However, we see that this is not better for all Muslims.”

He explained that life and death are in God’s hands stating that nothing bad would happen to him today or tomorrow, even if his offer to embrace peace was rejected. 

To reconcile with the terrorists, Bello Matawalle, Governor of Zamfara State, disbanded vigilante groups after accusing them of inflaming tensions. 

The Governor, however, reinstated the vigilante groups in Sept. 2021 as part of the newly formed and government-authorised Civilian Joint Task Force. 

Several previous attempts to reconcile with the terrorists failed, but this is the first time the terrorists have called for peace.

Experts familiar with the operations of terrorists in the Northwest have attributed many failures of reconciliation with the terrorists to the decentralisation of their operations.

Even if other groups embrace peace, some groups continue operating because they didn’t consider themselves part of the peace deal.

 


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Aliyu Dahiru

Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu is a senior reporter, researcher and a fact-checker. He heads the extremism and radicalisation desk. Tweets: @Aliyussufiy

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