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Nigerian forces rescue nearly 200 hostages

October 8, 2021

Heavily armed gangs have been stepping up raids on schools and villages in northwestern Nigeria, often taking hostages for ransom.

Nigerian security forces patrol in a truck in Jangebe, Zamfara
Nigerian forces have been trying to keep a lid on violent gangs Image: Afolabi Sotunde/REUTERS

Nigerian security forces have rescued 187 people who were captured by armed bandits in the northwestern state of Zamfara, police said late Thursday.

Authorities in the region have been waging a military campaign against kidnapping groups, who have carried out increasingly brazen attacks on schools and villages in recent months.

"The police and other security agencies have been carrying out assaults on identified bandits locations in different parts of the state with a view to ridding the state of all activities of recalcitrant bandits and other criminal elements," police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said.

He added that the 187 rescued hostages, including women and children, had spent weeks in captivity.

Crackdown on violence

As part of its efforts to disrupt bandit activities, the government last month shut down telecoms services in Zamfara and other states.

The military announced last week that it had "neutralized" nearly 300 criminals during the security operations.

But the violence has not stopped. On Tuesday, around 100 bandits reportedly raided Kuryan Madaro village in Zamfara, killing more than a dozen people and seizing money and mobile phones from residents. 

Authorities in neighboring states have also raised concerns that bandits being driven out of Zamfara are now committing crimes in their territories.

The gangs have kidnapped hundreds of schoolchildren in mass abductions since December. Many have been released after the payment of ransoms but dozens are still being held.

At the same time, Nigerian security forces are battling a 12-year jihadist insurgency by Boko Haram militants in the country's northwest that has killed more than 40,000 people.

nm/fb (Reuters, AFP)