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Nigeria train attack: gunmen killed and injured passengers, authorities say

Nigeria train attack: gunmen killed and injured passengers, authorities say
In this Friday, March 11, 2011 photo, workers wash new trains in Lagos, Nigeria.   -  
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Sunday Alamba/AP


The attack on a passenger train Monday night in northwestern Nigeria by gunmen has left "injured and dead" among the nearly 400 passengers on board, local authorities said Tuesday morning.

An Abuja-Kaduna passenger train was attacked by "bandits" on Monday evening. On Tuesday authorities issued a statement saying that "passengers who were injured or who died have been transferred to hospitals."

The head of security in Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan, did not give an exact death toll, nor did he say whether any passengers had been abducted, but said that "a rescue operation was underway". The evacuation of passengers trapped on board the train was completed on Tuesday morning.

Many people are also feared to have been abducted during the "unprecedented" attack, according to Fidet Okhiria, chief executive of the state-owned Nigerian Railway Corporation.

The train was attacked at around 9 p.m. local time near Rijana station, on the line linking Abuja, the capital, to Kaduna, a city in the northwest of the country, where gunmen had already tried to attack the airport last week-end.

According to several sources, the attackers set off explosives, damaging the tracks, and fired a large number of shots, before being repulsed an hour later by soldiers deployed on the spot.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but suspicion quickly fell on the armed groups who have carried out thousands of abductions and killings in the northwest and central states of the West African nation where they loot, kidnap and kill.

Deteriorating situation

For several years, many kidnappings for ransom have taken place on the highway linking Abuja to Kaduna, the main road leading to Kano, the country's second largest city and an important trade hub in the Sahel.

Faced with this growing insecurity, many travelers now prefer to take the more expensive but safer train or plane.

However, the situation seems to have deteriorated in recent months: last October, gunmen tried to attack the same train line, and last Saturday an attack was repelled by the military at Kaduna airport, where assailants killed a security guard and temporarily interrupted air traffic.

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