Nigeria’s air force said airstrikes this week killed 55 members of criminal gangs who were involved in abduction-for-ransom operations. An air force spokesman said after the airstrikes, the militants released people they were holding hostage.
Nigeria’s government has come under heavy criticism for failing to stop mass abductions and Islamist militant attacks.
The Nigerian Air Force said airstrikes in north central Kaduna state on Tuesday killed 28 members of a kidnapping-for-ransom gang, including a gang leader. It said many others were injured.
Air Force Public Relations Director Gabriel Gabkwet told reporters that authorities had received intelligence that the bandits were gathering in the area. He said the success of the raid led to the release of captives they held.
Gabkwet said other airstrikes in northwestern Katsina state this week killed 27 bandits.
He did not take calls from VOA for further comment.
The airstrikes come a week after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari presided over a national security meeting and said he had given security forces the full freedom to deal with terrorists.
Darlington Abdullahi, president of the alumni association of Nigeria’s National Defense College, said Buhari’s words were a morale booster for troops.
“This kind of thing should not come as a surprise, all you need is political will to guide the action of the forces,” Abdullahi said. “I think they’re getting probably that support that is required to deal with the situation from the utterances of Mr. President.”
But Gabkwet said the military has also been conducting air operations targeting insurgents in northeastern Borno state. He said that included an August 6 raid in the village of Gazuwa that followed intelligence that terrorists from Boko Haram and splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) were fighting each other.
Nigeria has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the northeast for more than 12 years.
Authorities have been heavily criticized for failing to address general insecurity that stems from the insurgency and rampant kidnapping.
Abduallahi said the military must stay on the offensive.
“As long as this continues, I think the military still has the upper hand to take on them before they organize themselves properly,” he said. “I think the security agencies really have to continue with the efforts to deal with the situation decisively.”
Earlier this week, police said they had arrested four suspects connected to a church attack in the southwest state of Ondo that killed 40 worshippers.
But security analyst Senator Iroegbu said authorities have shown a lack of political will to address the problem.
“The challenge we’re having is that the political will is not there, especially from the presidency,” Iroegbu said. “There’s no clear-cut directive on what to do. Any time you hear … he’s sounding frustrated. They keep on pushing the blame to others not taking responsibility.”
In July, Islamic State West Africa Province claimed responsibility for a jailbreak in Buja that freed over 400 inmates, including high-profile terrorism detainees. Only a few of the prisoners have since been recaptured.