Bandits attacked a convoy of buses conveying intending pilgrims from Isa Local Government Area of Sokoto State Monday evening.
The Isa pilgrims are among the hundreds of Muslim pilgrims billed to travel from Sokoto to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.
A source from Isa, who resides in Sokoto metropolis, Salihu Mustapha, said the convoy was ambushed by the gunmen.
“You know it’s only one mobile network that has served in the area, so the information we’ve so far is still sketchy but I was told by neighbours, whose father is among the intending pilgrims that the bandits opened fire on the vehicle conveying the pilgrims.
“He, however, told me that the mobile policemen escorting the convoy fought back and repelled the attack,” he said.
“You know there is a very thick forest around Gundumi area which gives the bandits cover anytime they want to strike. The pilgrims were attacked around that axis,” he said.
In a statement signed by the governor’s spokesperson, Muhammad Bello, the state government confirmed the attack.
He said the intending pilgrims were attacked “on their way to the state capital for take-off to this year’s pilgrimage.”
Mr Bello, in the statement seen by PREMIUM TIMES, said, the intending pilgrims were rescued unscathed.
Quoting the state Commissioner for Information, Isah Bajini-Galadanchi, Mr Bello said,”all of the intending pilgrims, their relatives who were accompanying them to Sokoto Hajj camp and the security men escorting them, were momentarily held up by suspected bandits operating on the corridor linking the eastern part of the state, arrived safely in Sokoto, the capital city.
“Already the contingents have been received by Government officials and are being processed for their onward journey to the Holy Land,” he added.
The Executive Secretary of the Sokoto State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Shehu Dange, also confirmed the attack to journalists in Sokoto but refused to give details of the attack.
The Sokoto police spokesperson, Sanusi Abubakar, did not respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the attack.
Sokoto State, like many states in Nigeria’s North-west region, is bedevilled by incessant attacks on rural communities and travellers by gunmen locally called bandits.
Apart from killing some of their victims, the criminals also kidnap others for ransom. They also indulge in the rustling of cattle. They have killed hundreds of people in the region and many more have been kidnapped.
The insecurity in the region has also led to the displacement of millions of people.
Isa, Sabon Birni, Goronyo, Wurno, Rabah, are among the areas worst hit by the bandits crisis in the state.