Four security personnel were killed and one critically injured on Monday when their vehicle hit a landmine in central Nigeria’s Niger state, police said.
Northwest and central Nigeria have been plagued by gangs of cattle thieves called bandits who raid villages, kill residents, and burn homes after looting them.
The gangs, who have in recent times intensified highway kidnappings and mass abductions of students from their hostels, were last month designated as terrorists by the Nigerian government.
The incident happened on Monday as operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) paramilitary outfit were going to Galadiman Kogo village after deadly attacks by bandits.
The bandits invaded the village late Sunday, torching homes and killing six residents, a Niger state police spokesman said in a statement.
“However… while on their way, a truck with NSCDC personnel ran into an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted by bandits/insurgents along the routes and exploded,” he said.
“Consequently… four NSCDC personnel lost their lives, while the driver sustained serious injuries,” he added.
The attack on the village was a reprisal over a military raid on the bandits’ camps in a nearby forest the previous day, said Emmanuel Umar, the state local government affairs commissioner.
He said hundreds of residents had been displaced from their homes following the attack and were sheltering in neighboring communities.
On January 30, more than 100 bandits on motorcycles stormed Galadiman Kogo community, killing 11 security personnel and several villagers, according to Sani Bello, the state governor.
Bello then hinted at impending “extensive military operations” approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in three districts the bandits use as enclaves.