Victims of ambushed train used as human shields by kidnappers, Nigerian president says

By Nimi Princewill, CNN

Dozens of passengers abducted in a train attack in northern Nigeria in late March are being used as human shields by their captors, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

Buhari said this further complicated rescue efforts.

“They use civilians as human shields, which makes it difficult to confront them directly… Bandits and terrorists, unlike professional military personnel, do not respect the rules of engagement; they don’t care to kill their hostages if they are attacked,” the Nigerian leader said in a statement on Monday’s Eid al-Fitr celebration.

At least eight people were killed and more than two dozen injured when gunmen opened fire on a crowded commuter train traveling from the capital Abuja to the northern city of Kaduna on March 28.

A survivor of the attack told CNN at the time that the train was hit by two explosions before the gunmen opened fire on the trapped passengers. After shelling the tracks, the gunmen surrounded the cars and opened fire, eyewitness Musa Bashir Usman said.

About 168 passengers on the ambushed train could not be traced last month by the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

Local media reported last week that a pregnant woman among those abducted had given birth in captivity.

Video of some kidnapped victims surrounded by masked gunmen also surfaced, but CNN could not independently verify the footage.

President Buhari said he had “directed security agencies to ensure speedy and safe recovery of all abduction victims” while urging Nigerian Railways management “to set up a crisis room for the coordination of the rescue mission and the minute-by-minute engagement with the families”. captives.

Deadly invasions and kidnappings for ransom by armed men known locally as “bandits” have become a persistent problem across Nigeria in recent years, even as the country struggles to contain the notorious terrorist group Boko Haram.

“There are fears that the bandits will become another big challenge as we confront the threat of Boko Haram,” Buhari added in his Monday statement. “Let me assure Nigerians that this administration will not allow this to happen.”

Buhari’s statement came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres embarked on a Ramadan solidarity visit to the country to show support for victims of terrorism.

António Guterres also traveled to Senegal and Niger where he met families affected by violence and instability in the Sahel region, including internally displaced people, his office said.

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