MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Oct. 7 (Reuters) – Nigerian security agents on Thursday rescued 187 people kidnapped by armed gangs in northwestern Zamfara state, police said after authorities launched a comprehensive security operation against the kidnappers.
Since December last year, Zamfara has been at the center of abductions, often violent, by heavily armed bandits who attack schools, villages and people traveling on highways to extort ransom.
The government shut down telecommunications services in Zamfara and other states last month to disrupt coordination between the gangs.
Zamfara police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said in a statement that the 187 people, including women and children, were arrested a few weeks ago by kidnappers from four local counties in the state.
“Police and other security agencies have launched attacks on identified bandit locations in different parts of the state in an attempt to rid the state of all activities by unruly bandits and other criminal elements,” Shehu said.
Pictures and videos leaked to the media by police showed some of the people with torn clothes and difficulty sitting while waiting to be returned to their homes.
Armed gangs have grown bolder over time, attacking army outposts, taking prisoners out of prison and shooting down an Air Force jet in July.
Authorities in neighboring states have complained that bandits displaced from Zamfara have invaded their territories and are wreaking havoc.
Reporting by Maiduguri Newsroom, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe, editing by Richard Pullin
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