One week after gunmen attacked a train with explosives in northwestern Nigeria, the whereabouts of 168 passengers are still unknown,according to the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
At least eight people were killed and others missing on March 28 when gunmen detonated a bomb on the track and opened fire on the train linking the capital Abuja with the northwestern city of Kaduna.
President Muhammadu Buhari had said some passengers had been kidnapped and survivors said gunmen had snatched a number of passengers, but it is not clear how many.
It was the latest deadly assault blamed on heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits in the region.
In a statement late Sunday, the NRC said of the 362 passengers on board the train when it was attacked, 186 had been confirmed safe.
“Of the 362 validated passengers on board the attacked AK9 train service on March 28, 186 persons on the manifest are confirmed to be safe and at their various homes,” it said.
Service temporarily suspended
The NRC said of the remaining 176 passengers, eight have been confirmed dead, leaving the whereabouts of 168 still unknown. It said efforts were still underway to rescue the missing passengers.
The corporation said damaged track and coaches were being repaired while services on the Abuja-Kaduna route had been “temporarily suspended”.
Two days earlier, gunmen killed a perimeter security guard in an attack at Kaduna airport before armed forces intervened. In addition to that, unidentified men attacked the same railway line with explosives in October.
Bandit gangs in the northwest and central Nigerian states have long terrorised communities, conducting mass kidnappings for ransom, raiding villages and stealing cattle.
But their violence has intensified. Arriving in their scores by motorbike, gunmen strike several villages. They have also targeted highways for kidnappings between the capital and cities such as Kaduna and the northwestern commercial hub Kano.
Nigeria’s military has been carrying out operations and air strikes to clear bandits out of their camps hidden in forests across several states in the northwest. But they haven’t been entirely defeated. Security forces are also battling a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the northeast that has killed 40,000 people and displaced more than two million more.