Authorities say travelers were kidnapped at gunpoint by unknown assailants. Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria is plagued by terror, banditry and ethnic clashes as elections loom.
Authorities in Nigeria’s southern Edo state on Sunday announced that unknown armed gunmen had kidnapped at least 32 people in an attack at a local train station Saturday afternoon.
The Edo governor’s office said the attack occurred in Igueben (population ca. 70,000) at around 4:00 p.m. (1600 CET), when men armed with AK-47 assault rifles attacked a group of people waiting for a train to the oil town of Warri in Delta state.
Several people were also reported to have been injured when gunmen opened fire during the attack. Igueben is located roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Benin City.
State Information Minister Chris Osa Nehikhare said 32 people had been abducted in the assault but noted that one had already escaped.
“At the moment, security personnel — made up of the military and the police as well as men of the vigilante network and hunters — are intensifying search and rescue operations in a reasonable radius to rescue the kidnap victims.”
“We are confident,” he said, “that the other victims will be rescued in the coming hours.”
The Federal Transportation Ministry called the attack “utterly barbaric.”
The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) promptly closed the station after the attack.
Who is committing acts of violence in Nigeria?
The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria has borrowed billions from China in an effort to modernize its rail infrastructure. Yet, wracked by violence from all corners, that rail infrastructure has been repeatedly targeted by Islamist militants and armed bandits.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack.
In March 2022, the radical Islamist group Boko Haram shot eight people and kidnapped several more in an attack on a train station outside the capital Abuja. Train service was interrupted for more than eight months as a result.
Like many of its neighbors, Nigeria has failed to gain control over insurgent forces operating within and across its borders: In the northwest bandits rage, in the northeast Islamists, a strong separatist movement exists in the southeast of the country and its central states are the site of ethnic clashes.
Nigeria’s government has pledged to improve security at train stations, yet analysts say they just don’t have the manpower. With a battered economy and security forces stretched thin, authorities have a difficult task ahead as citizens prepare to vote in February’s presidential election.
js/kb (dpa, Reuters)
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