Abuja, Nigeria — Nigerian authorities say the military is responding to a series of killings and kidnappings by gunmen in the country’s northwest. In the latest attack, gunmen on motorcycles Saturday raided a village in Kebbi State, killing at least 50 people, according to locals.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior aide Garba Shehu said on Twitter Sunday that the president has ordered the military to “respond robustly to the cases of killings and kidnappings.”
He added, “The federal government is willing to strengthen support and cooperation with all the states,” and said the president believes that with the full cooperation of the citizens, Nigeria will surely overcome this problem.
It is not the first time the president has issued strong worded threats against armed gangs in the country, known locally as bandits.
But gangs continue to raid communities, looting for supplies and killing and kidnapping for ransom, mostly in the northwest and central regions. The latest incident occurred in Dankade village in Kebbi state over the weekend. More than 50 people were reportedly killed.
Last week, more than 200 people were killed in attacks that lasted three days in northwestern Zamfara state.
However, security analyst Kabiru Adamu says recent efforts by authorities are paying off.
“Since the president renewed his calls to the security forces, what we’ve seen is military airstrikes in forests where these bandits are holding their victims. We’ve also seen an increase in police operations. All of that has affected the ability of these bandits to operate,” he said.
Late last year, Nigeria officially classified armed gangs as terrorists, putting them in the same category with Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa province (ISWAP).
Experts say the designation was a major step in taking deterrent measures against the groups.
“The attacks do not diminish that fact that yes there’s progress,” said Senator Iroegbu, a security analyst. “The terrorists’ capacities have been greatly diminished, so there’s definitely progress from what it used to be.”
Nigeria’s armed forces said last week they killed 537 armed bandits and other criminal elements” in the region and arrested 374 others since May of last year.It said 452 kidnapped civilians have been rescued.
Still, the armed forces are struggling to maintain basic security.
More than 10,000 people were killed in Nigeria in banditry and terror related attacks last year, according to the U.S.-based Council for Foreign Relations.
This month, Nigeria received clearance to deploy fighter jets purchased from the United States after months of delay due to human rights concerns.