The Commissioner of Police in northwestern Zamfara State, Ayuba Elkana, told a press conference in the state capital Gusau Tuesday that 97 kidnapped victims including babies, nursing and pregnant women were “rescued unconditionally” in joint military operations in Zamfara’s Shinkafi and Tsafe districts on Monday.
Among those rescued were seven pregnant women, more than a dozen babies aged between two-seven months old, and 16 children between the ages of two-seven years, police said.
The regional police chief added that the kidnapped victims were found “stranded in the bush,” and had been in captivity for more than two months.
Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Zamfara’s Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara, said Monday’s rescue operations was a joint effort of the state government and security agencies, including useful intelligence reports from “repentant bandits.”
“It was a collaborative effort between the state government, security agencies, and also the help given by some repentant bandits who have been helping the government in giving intelligence about the activities of the abductors that led to the release of the victims,” the senior state official told CNN. “No ransom was paid,” he stated.
In a series of raids, military operations targeted the hideouts of two kingpins known as Bello Turji and Ado Aleru.
Police say Aleru was a mastermind behind the kidnappings. Both men have been linked to a string of kidnappings in the region.
Zamfara and its northwestern neighbors have been under siege for many months by marauding gunmen locally known as ‘bandits’ who have reigned terror and masterminded a series of kidnappings in the region.
Dosara told CNN that the kidnappers were forced to abandon their captives following “intense pressure” by government forces.
Nigeria’s military has, in recent weeks, targeted Zamfara forest reserves which serve as hideouts for insurgents with extensive military raids and multiple airstrikes.
“The government put intense pressure on the bandits by taking a series of measures to facilitate easy access into their enclaves… That was why they decided to abandon the rescued victims,” Dosara said.
The rescued hostages will be reunited with their families after medical checks, police said.