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Nigeria defence chief says bad intel hinders fight on kidnappings

Nigerian Major General Christopher Musa attends an event in Ngarannam in Nigeria

By Ope Adetayo

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria's Defence Chief General Chris Musa said on Monday the military was being fed bad intelligence by informants, hampering the fight against armed kidnapping gangs who continue to abduct students and residents in the north of the country.

The military announced on Sunday that it had rescued 137 students abducted by gunmen earlier this month in northwestern Kaduna state. The school children arrived in Kaduna on Monday.

Musa told Reuters that the military was too stretched and often relied on informants to pursue the armed gangs, known locally as bandits, often with little success.

"They (informants) make the troops go elsewhere and when they get there, they meet nothing and allow the bandits to commit acts of criminality," said Musa.

Musa said there had been no confrontation with gunmen during the rescue of the Kaduna students. But he would not say how the students were freed or if any of the gunmen were taken into custody.

There have been at least 68 mass abductions in the first quarter of 2024 mostly in northern Nigeria, according to risk consultancy SBM Intelligence.

Musa said once bandits retreat to Nigeria's vast forests, it becomes difficult to pursue them. That is because gunmen quickly trek through the forest, often for days with their victims.

"Once they go in there, getting them out is difficult. The aircrafts cannot see them quite easily," he said, adding that Nigeria's vast and loosely patrolled northern border made the situation worse.

The kidnappings have prompted some state governments to recruit what they call community guards.

"Now, state governments on their own are going to pick people who have no training and deploy and we are discouraging them from doing that," he said.

(Reporting by Ope Adetayo; Editing by Sandra Maler)