Heavily armed men attacked a mine in central Nigeria on Wednesday killing security personnel and kidnapping workers, including at least four Chinese, local authorities said in a statement on Thursday.
the armed men, known locally as "bandits", have been raiding villages in northwestern and central Nigeria to kidnap or kill residents for years, but their attacks have recently become more widespread.
These "bandits" also target infrastructure projects and mining sites, including kidnapping foreign workers for ransom. Dozens of Chinese employees have been targeted in recent years. They are usually released after paying a ransom.
On Wednesday afternoon, the gunmen attacked a mine in the village of Ajata Aboki, in the Shiroro zone of eastern Niger state, said regional security official Emmanuel Umar. "People employed at the mine site, including four Chinese nationals, were abducted," he added, saying the exact number of abductees had yet to be determined.
Climate of violence
Security personnel clashed with the attackers, killing both sides, but the exact number of deaths has yet to be determined, the authorities said. They did not specify the raw material extracted from the mine, nor the name of the company in charge of its exploitation.
A climate of almost generalized violence reigns in the north of Africa's most populous country, plagued by criminal gangs in the west and jihadists in the east, who are multiplying attacks and kidnappings, less than a year before the presidential election.
President Muhammadu Buhari is due to serve his second term in February 2023 and is widely criticised for his inability to curb insecurity. In recent years, violence perpetrated by "bandits" has been on the rise: these criminal gangs killed more than 2,600 civilians in 2021, an increase of more than 250% compared to 2020, according to figures from the NGO Acled.
The "bandits" are motivated by money, not ideology, and often release their hostages after paying a ransom. But analysts are concerned about possible links with jihadist groups in the northeast.