A Nigerian bandit chief who led the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolchildren has been killed in armed clashes with a rival gang, days after reneging on an amnesty deal with authorities, sources told AFP.
Awwalun Daudawa led the abduction of more than 500 students from Government Science Secondary School Kankara last December.
It was one of a series of mass abductions by heavily armed criminal gangs who have become an increasing security challenge in northwest and central Nigeria.
On Thursday a Zamfara state government official told AFP Daudawa had reneged on a peace pact he made in February and returned to lead his men in the forest.
“Daudawa was killed along with four of his commanders Friday afternoon during a gun fight with a rival gang in Dumburum forest on the border with Katsina state,” a Zamfara government official said.
“He led his men on a revenge mission to avenge the death of two of his men by the rival gang during a failed raid on one of his camps last month,” said the official.
In February Daudawa along with six comrades surrendered to Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle in his office where he handed over weapons, saying he had renounced crime, as part of the amnesty to bandits to end the cycle of violence.
– Ambushed and gunned down –
But sources said Daudawa only surrendered a fraction of his weapons and maintained contact with his gangs in the forest.
Earlier this month Daudawa left his lodging in Zamfara state capital Gusau on the pretext of meeting some criminal gangs to convince them to accept a government amnesty offer and release some hostages, according to an official.
“Daudawa has been killed along with his four commanders during fighting with the men of rival bandits,” a source with deep knowledge on the activities of bandits told AFP.
“He was ambushed and gunned down while trying to take away the herd of the rival gang,” said the source.
It was not clear what impact the death of Daudawa would have on the deadly violence cattle thieves and kidnappers have unleashed in northwestern Nigeria.
Some of the Kankara schoolchildren had escaped during the December kidnapping and more than 300 more were released days later after negotiations with local officials.
State authorities always deny any ransom payments were made.
Daudawa, 43, was an armed robber and a cattle rustler before he added gun-running and kidnapping for ransom to his criminal portfolio.
He was known to have ties with Boko Haram jihadists and acted as their gunrunner, selling weapons they seize from Nigerian security personnel in the northeast to bandits in the northwest.