Gunmen abducted 22 farmers from their fields just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja, local police said on Friday, in the latest wave of mass kidnappings in the country.
Heavily armed criminals known locally as bandits frequently attack insecure rural areas in the North West and Central regions, but mass kidnappings are rare in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“The incident happened in Rafin Daji, a border community between Niger (state) and the FCT… 22 were abducted,” police spokesman Oduniyi told AFP. Omotayo.
He said the abductions took place on Wednesday.
“Farmers were working on their farmland when gunmen outnumbered them and kidnapped them,” Omotayo said in a post.
Police and other security agencies “stormed the forest” in a bid to rescue the victims, he added.
Nigerian troops are fighting on multiple fronts, including in the northeast where jihadists led a 13-year-old insurgency and in the southeast where separatists operate.
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But violence perpetrated by bandit militias is on the rise, with 50% more incidents in 2021 than the previous year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
Nigerian bandits killed more than 2,600 civilians in 2021, an increase of more than 250% from 2020, according to the charity collecting the data.
This figure far exceeds the official number of civilian deaths resulting from the jihadist insurgency.
Most kidnappings are financially motivated, with victims often released after paying a ransom, but there are concerns that some groups are linked to jihadist cells.