Nigeria Rescues 187 People From Kidnappers

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) -

Nigerian security agents on Thursday rescued 187 people who had been abducted by armed gangs in the northwestern state of Zamfara, police said, after authorities launched a sweeping security operation against the kidnappers.

Since December last year, Zamfara has been at the center of often violent kidnappings by heavily armed bandits who have targeted schools, villages and people traveling on highways for ransom.

The government last month shut telecommunication services in Zamfara and other states to disrupt coordination among the gangs.

Mohammed Shehu, the police spokesman for Zamfara, said in a statement that the 187 people, including women and children, had been seized by kidnappers from four local government areas in the state some weeks ago.

“The police and other security agencies have been carrying out assaults on identified bandits locations in different parts of the state with a view to ridding the state of all activities of recalcitrant bandits and other criminal elements,” said Shehu.

Pictures and video circulated by police to the media showed some of the people with torn clothes and struggling to sit as they waited to be transported back to their homes.

Armed gangs have grown bolder over time, attacking army outposts, breaking prisoners out of a jail and shooting down an air force jet in July.

Authorities in neighboring states have complained that bandits driven out of Zamfara have poured into their territories and were causing havoc.