Gunmen kidnap more than 100 in attack on villages in northwest Nigeria

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File phpto of the school in Kuriga, Nigeria, where students were kidnapped on March 9, 2024. © Sunday Alamba, AP

By Ahmed Kingimi Reuters

More than 100 people were kidnapped by gunmen during Friday night raids on three villages in northwest Nigeria, a district head and residents said on Saturday, the latest abduction of villagers in a region blighted by widespread insecurity.

Kidnapping has become endemic in Nigeria’s northwest as roving gangs of armed men abduct people from villages, highways and schools, and demand ransom money from their relatives.

Alhaji Bala, head of a district in the Birnin-Magaji local government area of Zamfara, said gunmen attacked the villages of Gora, Madomawa and Jambuzu and that 38 men and 67 women and children were missing.

“But the number of people abducted could be more than that,” he said.

Zamfara is a hotspot for kidnapping gangs who carry out attacks and retreat into forests where they have set up camps. The Nigerian military has bombed some of the camps but attacks continue.

Yezid Abubakar, Zamfara police spokesperson, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Aminu Aliyu Asha, the Madomawa village head, said gunmen arrived in his village on motorbikes and shot sporadically before kidnapping several people.

“The abduction breaches the peace agreement between us and bandits. In February this year, we made several ransom payments in order to stop them from attacking our territory,” said Asha.

Nusa Sani said his two brothers were among those abducted, while another resident, Garba Kira, added that among the abducted were 15 passengers in a lorry that was passing through the villages.

Mass kidnappings were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram when they seized more than 200 students a decade ago, but the practice has been adopted by armed gangs with no known ideological affiliation and has grown as Nigerians grapple with economic hardship.

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