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Terrorists Plotting Attack On Abuja-Kaduna Train, SSS Warns

Terrorists are planning to attack the Abuja-Kaduna train to kidnap passengers, Nigeria’s secret police, SSS, wrote said in a ‘security alert’ addressed to the Managing Director of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC).

In the letter, dated 11 August, the SSS said its intelligence indicates an impending threat to seamless train transportation along the Abuja-Kaduna Train Service (AKTS).

It warned that a “Coalition of Banditry Syndicate” are planning to attack the train “any moment from now.” The attack is aimed at kidnapping passengers on board for ransom, the SSS said.

The warning is coming about 18 months after terrorists attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train in March 2022. On the night of the attack, terrorists emerged from the Kateri-Rijana forest of Kaduna State, setting off explosives to derail the Abuja-Kaduna train carrying 362 passengers. Shots then came from all directions as the attackers surrounded the train, which had armed policemen on board, and managed to abduct over 100 of the passengers.

At least eight people died in the attack.

In view of the latest threat and the need to forestall likely breaches of security along the Abuja-Kaduna train service, the SSS advised that existing security arrangements be scaled up within and along the route.

Among other security measures, the secret service advised: “air surveillance patrol; surveillance on the rail track; military checkpoint or patrol; and security raid operation be carried out around Byazhin, Jibi, as well as Ija forest.”

It added that the Nigeria Police Mobile Force (NPMF) operatives should be “enhanced with walkie-talkies to sustain escort services on the train.” In addition, the agency called for the “deployment of more Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) with walkie-talkies to provide escort duty.”

PREMIUM TIMES could not confirm if the railway corporation had implemented the advice of the SSS. Pascal Nnorli, a general manager at the railway corporation’s headoffice in Abuja said “he doesn’t discuss security matters over the phone” and refused to speak further on the matter.

Thousands of Nigerians use the railway as a safer and faster alternative to the road route between Abuja and Kaduna, which for years has been one of the most dangerous routes in Nigeria because of kidnappings by armed bandits.

Last year, the train attack sparked national outrage and fresh worries about the capacity of the federally-controlled security and intelligence systems to detect and prevent attacks.

A few days after the attack, former Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai blamed the military for failing to attack the terrorists, despite identifying them long before the train tragedy.

Also, former transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, in an apparent attempt to absolve himself of blame, said he had long warned of possible attacks on the rail line. Mr Amaechi claimed he had requested some digital security and crime detection equipment that could forestall such terror attacks on the rail line but his requests were turned down.

Several passengers were held hostage and released in batches following negotiations with their captors after the attack. The abductors were believed to have collected huge ransoms from the families of the abductees. Tukur Mamu, the publisher of Desert Herald newspaper, negotiated the release of some of the hostages in the train abductions. Mr Mamu has since been arrested by Nigeria’s secret police, the SSS, for allegedly aiding and abetting terrorism.

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