At least 30 people were kidnapped and a dozen others killed in a series of attacks in northwest Nigeria, witnesses told AFP Thursday, hours after the president had replaced his military commanders.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been under increasing pressure as his military struggles to resolve Nigeria’s security problems.
The country is battling a decade-long insurgency in the northeast, armed gangs in the northwest, communal conflicts in central regions, separatist tensions in the southeast, and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
On Thursday motorcycle-riding gunmen stormed Kungi village in Kaduna state, killing one and taking away 30 people, residents said.
“They came around 2:00 am (0100 GMT) and moved door-to-door, seizing people,” resident Umaru Abdullahi said. “We did a headcount after the gunmen left and we realized they had taken 30 people,” said Abdullahi, who has three relatives among the hostages.
Another resident, Muntari Sani, said women and children were among those kidnapped.
In the northwest region, where Buhari is from, heavily armed criminals called “bandits” by locals have terrorized communities for years, raiding villages, stealing cattle, kidnapping for ransom, and burning down homes.
Earlier on Wednesday in neighboring Katsina state, gunmen raided Unguwar Sarki and Bilbis villages, killing 11 people and stealing cattle, locals told AFP.
The assailants rode into Unguwar Sarki in the evening, shooting at residents and stealing their herd.
“We lost nine people in the attack. The bandits took away several cattle, food supplies, and money from us,” resident Sada Iro said. Another resident who only gave his first name, Ammani, confirmed the same account. Several people were injured while many fled, both sources said.
Around the same time another group of gunmen raided Bilbis village, killing two people and taking away cattle, Iro said.
Police declined to comment on the incidents.
The attacks come hours after Buhari suddenly appointed a new chief of defense staff and new army, navy, and airforce commanders, after increasing pressure including from allies.
In a security embarrassment last month, gunmen abducted 340 school students in Buhari’s own home state of Katsina, while he was visiting the area. The students were later released but the incident sparked outrage.
In a statement on Wednesday, Buhari told the new chiefs: “We are in a state of emergency.”