Nigeria bombs gunmen camp, kills 78: military

Bandits had recently stepped up attacks

Nigerian forces have killed 78 gunmen, known locally as bandits, during military operations including air strikes in northwestern Zamfara State, the Air Force said in a statement.

Heavily-armed bandits have wracked northwest and central Nigeria for years, but the groups have recently stepped up attacks on schools, kidnapping hundreds of students for ransom and prompting a military response.

“On 2 August 2021, Nigerian Air Force… locked on armed bandits on bikes moving into Kwiambana Forest Reserves (in Zamfara State)… over 78 bandits were neutralised, and their camps destroyed,” Air Force spokesman Edward Gabkwet said in the statement late on Thursday.

The bandits were tracked to “extensive and well concealed camps with numerous huts” that were destroyed by the Air Force “in liaison with ground troops forming blocking forces around the targeted areas of the forest”, it added. It said surviving bandits escaped and abandoned the camp.

The Nigerian military first deployed to the area in 2016 and a peace deal with bandits was signed in 2019 but attacks have continued. Violence linked to these groups is just one of the challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari’s security forces, who are also battling a more than decade-long jihadist insurgency in the northeast and separatist agitation in the southeast.

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