Nigeria: At least eight people were killed and others missing after an attack on a major Nigerian railway when gunmen detonated a bomb on the track and opened fire on a train, officials said on Tuesday.
The Monday night attack on a train linking the capital Abuja with the northwestern city of Kaduna was another escalation in violence blamed on heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits.
Nigeria’s armed forces are battling a grinding jihadist insurgency in the northeast, but attacks and mass kidnappings by criminal gangs are an increasing challenge in parts of the northwest and centre of Africa’s most populous country.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday condemned the “grave” train attack and called for increased surveillance on the Abuja-Kaduna line and another linking Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos with the southwestern city of Ibadan.
The Kaduna train was between the towns of Katari and Rijana when gunmen blew up the tracks and started shooting into the coaches late on Monday before the army arrived to repel them, a security source said.
“Security agencies have reported that eight bodies were recovered and 26 persons were injured during the attack,” Kaduna State security commissioner Samuel Aruwan said in a statement.
He said records showed 362 passengers boarded the train at the official gate and investigations were ongoing into those still missing. The search for them was also continuing, he said.
“The president charged the law enforcement chiefs to bring back all passengers kidnapped and ensure that each of the callous terrorists are hunted down and made to face justice for their heinous acts,” the presidency said in a statement.
Earlier, two medical sources at Kaduna’s 44 Army Reference Hospital said seven bodies of those killed in the attack had been recovered along with 22 more wounded people.
A train security guard also told AFP that seven people had been killed, including two cleaners on the train.
– Airport attack –
The Nigerian Railway Corporation said services on the Abuja-Kaduna route had been “temporarily suspended”.
Two days earlier, gunmen killed a perimeter security guard in an attack at Kaduna airport before armed forces intervened.
Gunmen also attacked the same railway line with explosives in October.
Bandit gangs in the northwest and central states in Nigeria have long terrorised communities, conducting mass kidnappings for ransom, raiding villages and stealing cattle.
But their violence has intensified. Gunmen often arrive in their scores by motorbike, sometimes striking several villages, killing and abducting residents.
Gunmen have also targeted highways for kidnappings between Nigeria’s capital and cities such as Kaduna and the northwestern commercial hub Kano.
Nigeria’s military has been carrying out operations and air strikes to clear bandits out of their camps hidden in forests that straddle several states in the northwest. But the violence has continued.
Security forces are also battling Nigeria’s 12-year jihadist insurgency in the northeast that has killed 40,000 people and displaced more than two million more.