Gunmen Kidnap 150 People in Central Nigeria

Gunmen attacked a remote village in central Nigeria, killing eight people and kidnapped about 150 more in the country’s latest mass abduction, officials told AFP on Monday.

Large-scale kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria’s northwest and central states, where heavily armed gangs known locally as bandits often target remote villages.

Attackers on motorbikes stormed Kuchi village in Niger state on Friday night, where they killed eight people and “abducted about 150 villagers,” local government chairman Aminu Najume said.

“They came on around 100 motorcycles each carrying three men,” he said. “No help came throughout the three hours they took operating in the village.”

A UN source gave the same figure for the number kidnapped, while Nigerian state rescue agency SEMA said more than 100 were abducted.

Boko Haram and rival jihadist group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) also regularly carry out abductions in northeast Nigeria.

Some jihadist groups have established a presence outside the region, including in Niger state.

Najume, who blamed bandits for Friday’s attack, accused Nigerian security forces of failing to prevent regular raids.

“These killers usually come in from neighbouring Kaduna state to operate in Niger and go back. They come in hundreds and surprisingly security personnel don’t see them while they are on their way. And when villagers alert them they take no action,” he said.

The Nigerian army says it regularly carries out operations against gunmen in the region and rescues kidnap victims.

‘At the Mercy of Gunmen’

Bandits have no ideological leaning and are motivated by financial gain, but there has been concern over their increasing alliance with jihadists waging a 15-year insurgency in the northeast.

Many communities in northwest Nigeria have formed self-defense vigilante forces to fight off bandits in remote areas with little state presence.

Najume said the gunmen had killed four vigilantes and four villagers.

Rights group Amnesty International condemned the attack, saying on social media: “The invasion of the village by the gunmen is yet another indication of the Nigerian authorities’ utter failure to protect lives.”

“The Nigerian authorities have left the rural communities of Niger state at the mercy of gunmen who kill and abduct people daily,” it added.

The group called on the authorities to prevent mass kidnappings and bring the culprits to justice.

AFP contacted the police and the Nigerian presidency for comment, but they did not immediately respond.

Data on kidnapping is notoriously unreliable because of under-reporting, but in March Nigerian risk consultancy SBM Intelligence said it had recorded 4,777 people abducted since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took office in May last year.

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