Police in Zamfara state say they have rescued 187 villagers who had been abducted from their homes by criminal gangs.
The emaciated group, which included young women and men with babies, had spent about 7 weeks in captivity scavenging for food – where some of their number had died. It comes as the Nigerian security forces escalate their operations against the thousands of gang members who plague northern communities.
A major tactic has been to impose a telecommunications black out and shut down markets to prevent the gangs from operating. Analyst Bulama Bukarti of the Tony Blair Institute says he believes the people in this case were abandoned because the bandits couldn’t feed them and couldn’t get a ransom.
But he says the security operation is still in its early days – with less than 1,000 bandits arrested out of an estimated 30,000 – and in the meantime a humanitarian crisis is looming:
“You can say the tactic is working to some extent, but the essence of the policy is to stop a bandit getting food and fuel and communicating. But the other side of the coin is that communities too can’t get it, and therefore millions of families have been plunged into hunger, communications blackout and lack of fuel to sustain their lives.”