Nigerian security forces have rescued nearly 100 kidnapped victims held in forest hideouts in the country’s northwest after they were seized at least two months ago by criminal gangs, police said.
Nigeria’s police and army have been cracking down in recent months on heavily-armed groups known locally as “bandits” who target villages and communities mostly in central and northwestern states for looting raids and mass abductions for ransom.
In one operation on Monday, police rescued 68 victims held in camps in Shinkafi area of Zamfara State with the help of former bandits turned informants, the Zamfara police said in a statement.
Those victims, including men, women and children, had been held for more than three months, it said.
In a separate operation on Tuesday, police freed another 29 victims from the Kunchin Kalgo forest in Tsafe area of Zamfara, where they were held for 60 days.
“All the rescued victims are currently receiving medical treatment from the joint medical teams of the state government and the police,” the statement said.
Criminal gangs involved in cattle rustling and kidnap raids have long plagued parts of northwest and central Nigeria, but attacks have become more widespread.
Since last year, bandits have increasingly targeted schools and colleges to snatch hundreds of students and schoolchildren for ransom payments.
Security forces have been bombarding and raiding forest hideouts while authorities last year also cut telecommunications in some northwest states in a bid to disrupt bandit communications.