Armed gangs who kidnapped dozens of passengers in an attack on a train in northern Nigeria are using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for the military to carry out a rescue mission, President Muhammadu Buhari said.
More than 150 people are still missing after the March 28 attack, according to the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Families of the abducted say there is no evidence of rescue efforts from the government.
In a statement on Monday, Buhari said the government, which has been criticised for not doing enough to rescue the passengers, was trying to avoid a “tragic outcome” in any rescue operation.
“They [the kidnappers] are using civilians as human shields, thereby making it difficult to confront them directly,” he said.
“It’s a delicate situation … Any rescue operation that results in the death of any hostage cannot be deemed a success.”
Abductions have become a near-daily occurrence in northwest Nigeria, where armed gangs, locally known as bandits, abduct people for ransom.
The brutal nature of the attacks has increased insecurity fears in a country also grappling with the armed group Boko Haram and its factions in the northeast and rising criminality around the country.