Gunmen kidnapped seven football fans as they watched a match on television at a public venue in Zamfara state, northern Nigeria, residents and police said on Monday. About 20 gunmen in military and police uniforms seized the spectators in Birnin Magaji town; on Saturday night during the Italian Serie A league match between AC Milan and Napoli. The owner of the so-called viewing centre, Sanusi Ishie, told AFP: “They came dressed as soldiers and police and abducted seven people while watching the match.” Ishie said others in the venue at the time fled and believed those responsible belonged to criminal gangs who have carried out similar kidnappings for ransom in Zamfara.
“They will certainly demand money to release the victims,” he added.
Zamfara state police spokesperson Mohammed Shehu confirmed the kidnapping and said police search and rescue teams were “mobilised to find and rescue those abducted.”
Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom. In April last year, troops were deployed to fight the gangs. Birnin Magaji is one of the areas worst hit. Last December the police claimed to have killed 104 bandits in Birnin Magaji district, in a clash in which 16 policemen were also killed.
An influential traditional ruler in the state called for civilian militia members to be given assault rifles to defend themselves. The security situation in Zamfara state is one of a number issues facing President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking re-election at polls next in February.