World

Nigeria wedding party kidnapping: Zamfara escapee recounts shooting

A Nigerian couple put their wedding celebrations on hold after gunmen abducted at least 29 guests travelling home from the ceremony.

A survivor told the BBC the groom was “devastated” by the attack.

Jafar Kanoma said the perpetrators had mounted roadblocks and then started shooting in Zamfara state.

“One of the gunmen was running after me, firing and telling me to stop. But I didn’t stop and God helped me to escape,” Mr Kanoma said.

Mr Kanoma, a friend of the groom, said he had run for several kilometres through the bush before reaching a police checkpoint, leaving him “exhausted and speechless”.

He escaped without any gunshot wounds.

One of the cars in the convoy had developed a brake fault, Mr Kanoma said, forcing the guests to stop in a town called Tureta in Sokoto state for a repair. It was when they continued their journey that the ambush happened, just 2.4 miles (4 km) from Tureta near a village called Bimasa.

The victims, who work as phone dealers in Gusau, are colleagues of the groom.

The police spokesperson in the north-western Zamfara state, Muhammad Shehu, told the BBC that security forces had been deployed to search for and rescue the hostages, describing the events as “tragic”.

The couple was not among those kidnapped. The groom, Jamilu Umar, and his wife, Basira Abubakar Atiku, escaped the attack because their vehicles had driven by before the ambush.

Sources told the BBC the gunmen have called families of the victims and market officials using the captives’ mobile phones saying they were holding 29 people.

The kidnappers are also demanding a ransom.

Kidnappings for ransom by armed criminal gangs are common in Nigeria, especially in the northwest.

They often target travellers on dangerous roads as well as unprotected rural communities with victims usually released after ransom payments.

The Nigerian authorities are facing increasing criticism for failing to tackle the widespread insecurity including frequent killings and kidnappings by armed gangs.

In March, in one of the most brazen incidents, a train travelling from the capital Abuja to Kaduna was attacked and more than 60 people taken hostage.

In a speech to mark the 23rd anniversary of Nigeria’s return to democracy on Sunday, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged the rise in violence by various armed groups across the country, saying his government was doing its best to address it.

More than 3,500 people have been killed in the first three months of this year alone – thousands more have been kidnapped.

The government wants to outlaw the paying of ransoms in order to make kidnapping less lucrative.