Nigerian authorities say security forces have killed more than 200 armed gangs, known locally as bandits, in four days of gun battles in central Niger state. Nigeria has been struggling to contain growing violence by armed groups known for mass kidnappings for ransom.
The Niger state commissioner for local affairs and internal security, Emmanuel Umar, made the announcement during a press briefing in Minna, the state capital, Wednesday.
Umar said the bandits were killed in gunfire exchanges with agents at various locations between Sunday and Wednesday and that operatives recovered scores of motorcycles and cattle. The commanders of the gangs were also killed.
Additionally, he said two officers were killed by the bandits and that injured personnel were receiving treatment.
During a televised interview with a Lagos-based television station, he said authorities were increasing the security presence on highways in the state.
“We’ve now increased our visibility on the road if you ask those who have traveled on that road today. You’ll see patrol teams,” Umar said. “I was on that road yesterday. This morning, I was on that road to ensure increased visibility of security men on that road.”
Authorities attributed the victory to a joint task force operation including local militias and community heads.
Nigeria has seen a rise in mass abductions and killings by bandits since late 2020. Thousands have been killed in violence, and tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes.
Early this year, Nigeria’s armed forces said they killed 537 ”armed bandits and other criminal elements.”
Monday Bala Kuryas is Niger state commissioner of police.
“We’re collaborating with the communities to give us vital information or intelligence to their (bandits) movements so that we can nip it in the bud earlier on,” Kuryas said. “We’re also collaborating with our neighboring states like Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kebbi.”
Late last year, Nigeria labeled bandits as terrorist groups, allowing for stricter measures under the country’s laws.