Violent kidnappings-for-ransom spread across Nigeria

Relatives of schoolgirl Leah Sharibu who was abducted by Boko Haram Islamists hold banner to press for her release during an event to mark her 16th birthday and two years in captivity.

Relatives of schoolgirl Leah Sharibu who was abducted by Boko Haram Islamists hold banner to press for her release during an event to mark her 16th birthday and two years in captivity.

AFP/Kola Sulaimon

LAGOS - Zamfara State is reeling from a spate of attacks, with 203 crime-related deaths and 281 kidnappings in the first three months of 2019, according to Nigeria's top police officer, Mohammed Adamu.

This is nearly half the 685 kidnappings countrywide in the first quarter of the year -- an average of seven per day.

Another 1,071 people were killed in crime-related violence, Adamu recently told reporters. 

READ: Nigerian gunmen kill police, kidnap two Shell workers: police

In Nigeria, kidnappings for ransom have been a risk in the oil-rich south for decades.

But in recent years, the practice has spread to other areas, with northwest Nigeria -- the home region of President Muhammadu Buhari -- an increasingly concerning criminal front. 

The number of reported abductions across the country is rising, according to security experts.

The causes are multiple, including difficult economic times and overstretched security forces facing threats on several fronts -- Islamist insurgents and land battles between herders and farmers.

READ: UN says 833 children released by Nigerian militia group

The typical kidnapper profile has changed dramatically in recent years -- as has that of their victims, said Nnamdi Obasi from the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank. 

"The gangs involved now appear more organised, operating in larger groups, with more elaborate logistics, striking more audaciously."

And while they previously targeted "relatively well-to-do and high net-worth individuals", today "abductions are increasingly indiscriminate and everyone, rich or poor, is at risk," said Obasi.

Targeted operations within the last week have led to the arrest of 93 suspected kidnappers across northern Nigeria, with dozens of automatic weapons confiscated, police said.  

Source
AFP