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Gunmen abduct 160 villagers in Niger state, kill 10 people as scores flee

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Hundreds of people have fled their villages in a rural community in northwestern Nigeria after weekend attacks by armed groups left 10 dead and at least 160 missing, a local government chairman and two residents said on Monday.

A year after President Bola Tinubu came to power, promising to end widespread insecurity, kidnappings in the northwest by armed gangs demanding ransoms have become almost routine, with authorities seemingly powerless to stop them.

Gunmen on motorbikes first attacked Kuchi community in Niger state’s Munya local government area on Friday evening, killing five residents and five hunters who tried to fight back before kidnapping dozens of people, said local chairman Aminu Ajume.

The gunmen returned on Sunday night and seized livestock and food and burned shops, forcing at least 700 villagers to flee to nearby communities, Ajume added.

“As I am speaking to you, Munya is a  no-go area. They moved from house to house, abducting people… they abducted 160 villagers, including women,” he told Reuters by phone.

Kidnapping gangs, known locally as bandits, and members of a faction of insurgent group Boko Haram joined forces to launch the attacks, Ajume said without providing evidence.

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Boko Haram has been fighting an insurgency in the northeast since 2009, but Niger authorities have previously said its smaller faction had cells in the state and carried out some attacks.

The police and army spokespersons in Niger State did not respond to several requests for comment.

Maryam Abubakar, a resident, said she hid in the toilet when she heard sporadic gunfire around 1900 GMT on Friday, and gunmen burst into her home shortly after.

“It was raining at that time. The bandits entered the house, searched the rooms and kitchen, and they took my aunt and her two children,” Abubakar said, adding the three were still missing.

Musa Auwal was in his shop when gunmen attacked on Friday, but he hid in a nearby bush, he said.

When he returned the next day, his shop had been looted, so he fled to stay with relatives 60 kilometres away.

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