From Romanus Ugwu and Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Tension and fear have gripped residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) following attacks on a Kaduna-Abuja bound train by suspected bandits.

qThe attacker destroyed the rail tracks and left many passengers injured.    

The development has send jitters into Abuja residents with many of them calling on security agencies to scale up their surveillance.

“We no longer feel safe. These bandits are becoming more daring. We can only hope and pray that the authorities would be proactive and checkmate activities of these people before they overrun Abuja,” a resident said.

It was learnt that the train which took off at 6pm from Rigasa Station in Kaduna State was attacked between Rijana and Dutse stations.

Several passengers sustained injuries while trying to escape into safety following the exchange of gunfire between security officials attached to the train and the bandits.

While witnesses said the train was sprayed with  bullets, the Federal Government  which ordered indefinite suspension of rail transportation along the route, said the attackers only damaged the rail tracks.

Kaduna Senator, Shehu Sani, in a Facebook post, confirmed that the attackers opened fire on the train.

“On Wednesday night, bandits attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train. They planted an explosive that damaged the rail track and shattered the windshield of the train engine. They also opened fire targeting the driver and the tank. It happened between Dutse and Rijana stations. The driver struggled to move towards Kaduna Rigasa station. This early morning (yesterday), I was on board the train when it ran over another explosive damaged rail. The train nearly skid off the track, then it miraculously escaped. ”

A staff of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) confirmed the attack to Daily Sun.

“We expected this attack because we have seen several signs indicating that there would be an attack. Besides, we have been having running battle with communities, particularly herdsmen along the tracks, with some of them having their cattle that strayed into the rail tracks crushed by moving trains.”

Managing Director, NRC, Fidet Okhiria, confirmed that explosives damaged rail tracks between Dutse and Rijana on Wednesday night.

“Efforts are currently ongoing to ensure the train services along the Kaduna-Abuja route are fully restored. Nothing other that the explosion that went up on the track happened there. We even ran a train service this morning (yesteday). There was nothing like shooting of the train by bandits.”

A passenger, Inuwa Alhassan, who confirmed the development said it would have been disastrous if the driver of the train was not experienced enough to know what to do in such situation.

Meanwhile, an unconfirmed report, alerting of the planned attack, revealed that members of Darussalam (Boko Haram) in collaboration with bandits led by Dan Abu and Surajo were behind the attack.

The communication for the planned attack titled: ‘Planned attack on train around Rijana, Kaduna State’, read: “On 20/10/2021 about 1604 hours, monitoring of communication between Smally, a notorious bandit located around Tudun Wada, Kaduna South LGA, Kaduna State and his associate, Ardo, located around Sarkin Pawa, Niger State, revealed the plan to carry out an attack on a moving train near Rijana, along Abuja-Kaduna railway.

“Ardo informed Smally that members of Darussalam (Boko Haram) in collaboration with bandits led by Dan Abu and Surajo are currently on their way to plant a bomb at a bridge on the railway in Rijana to hijack a moving train and kidnap the passengers. Ardo said he decided not to participate in the operation because it is risky, but believed that Dan Abu and Surajo will blow up the bridge. In view of the foregoing, it is suggested that Kaduna State and FCT command be alerted to stop the operation of the train to avoid any untoward development.”

•APC condemns attack

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has condemned the attack lamenting the deprivation of services to passengers following the attack.   

National Secretary of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Senator John  Akpanudoedehe made the condemnation while inaugurating the APC State Congresses Appeal Committees in Abuja, yesterday.

“Nigerians by now have realised that the APC led-government of President Muhammadu Buhari means well for Nigerians and is doing everything possible to deliver infrastructure to Nigerians amidst difficult economic times, globally. We must stay united so we can defeat the agents of destruction who have vowed to set Nigeria backwards. Just this morning, an Abuja-Kaduna passenger train was attacked by criminals, depriving Nigerians the services it provides. This is so despicable, but together we shall overcome them,” he said.