Nigerian Army Launches Operation Against Kidnapping Gangs
The bandits have long sown fear in the heart of Nigerians in the northwest.
Security sources and residents told AFP on Monday that the Nigerian army launched an operation against gangs in the northwest of the country, where authorities recently disrupted mobile phone networks.
Local bandits recently kidnapped 73 students in the Zamfara state as part of a series of kidnappings targeting schools and universities in the northwest of the country.
As of late, the Telecom Regulatory Authority called on mobile operators to cut their networks in Zamfara for two weeks, at the request of local authorities who say the bandits coordinate their operations over the phone.
Last Saturday, warplanes began raids on guerrilla camps in the state, after cutting off telephone networks. The military operation continued today for the third consecutive day, in the Sopopo Forest, in the Shinkavi district, where many gang camps are located.
"Several camps were attacked and a large number of bandits were neutralized," an anonymous source familiar with the operations told AFP.
For years, northwest Nigeria has been plagued by violent conflicts between local farmers and nomadic herders over access to land and water. This violence has been exacerbated dramatically with the emergence of gangs attacking and looting villages, stealing livestock, and kidnapping residents for ransom.
These gangs have recently intensified their mass kidnappings of school and university students in northwestern and central Nigeria, with a thousand students kidnapped since December. Most were released after negotiations.
It was not possible to contact the Zamfara authorities due to outages in telephone networks and a dearth of information about the operations in progress.
Several states in northwestern Nigeria have imposed restrictions on the movement of motorcycles, the sale of fuel, and the trade of livestock in an attempt to disrupt the movement and activities of gangs.