LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria’s government on Wednesday labelled criminal bandit gangs blamed for mass kidnappings as terrorist groups in an attempt to deter violence in the country’s northwest.
Heavily armed gangs have long plagued Nigeria’s northwest and north-central states, raiding villages to loot and kidnap for ransom, but violence has become more widespread.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, already battling a more than decade-long extremist conflict in the northeast, had been under pressure to do more to halt attacks from the criminal gangs.
In the official gazette on Wednesday, the federal government labelled activities of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda – references in the Hausa language to bandit gunmen – “as acts of terrorism and illegality”.
“I think the only language they understand – we have discussed it thoroughly with the law enforcement agencies; the security chiefs, the Inspector General of Police – is to go after them,” Buhari told Channels Television, according to its website on Wednesday.