Police in Nigeria's Zamfara state say security forces have rescued 187 people who were abducted by criminal gangs over the last two months.
Zamfara State Police command spokesperson Shehu Mohammed said in a statement Thursday that the kidnap victims, including women and children, were abducted many weeks ago from four different communities in the state.
Mohammed did not explain how the rescues took place but said the victims were freed from the Tsibiri forest, where the kidnappers were holding them.
Security forces in Zamfara began a manhunt several months ago to address the spate of kidnappings in the state. Teams often organize searches in forest hideouts.
Their operations led to the shutdown of telecommunication services and the introduction of curfews and movement restrictions, especially on motorcycles, in September.
Authorities say the restrictions cut off food supplies for the bandits and made it difficult for them to operate.
Mohammed was not immediately available for comment, but security analyst Ebenezer Oyetakin agreed the restrictions paid off.
"Whatever is necessary in order to contain the flame of violence that is plaguing the northwest states of Zamfara and Sokoto is welcoming," Oyetakin said. "We can see the results since the pragmatic move to shut down the telecommunications systems in those areas. It is very beautiful and heartwarming."
Authorities say the victims will receive medical treatment before reuniting with their families.
Zamfara state in northwest Nigeria is one of the epicenters of the kidnap-for-ransom trend by criminal gangs that gained momentum late last year.
Authorities in nearby states like Kaduna and Sokoto say the crackdown in Zamfara is driving bandits to other areas and escalating security problems there.
But Kaduna-based public analyst and community leader Abu Mohammed says Kaduna state authorities are also taking action.
"We have predicted that their source of movement is through the cattle routes, following the grazing reserves and following the national parks in their hideouts," he said. "They have also detected other black spots within the state. So they're trying to comb all these insurgents, all these bad eggs out, and I believe they're doing that."
More than 1,200 people have been taken in mass abductions from schools and villages in northern Nigeria since last December.
In response to pressure from authorities, gangs have grown fierce, attacking police formations and military bases to prevent rescue operations.
Source: Voice of America