Nigeria police rescue 58 kidnap victims near capital Abuja
Police in Nigeria said on Sunday that they rescued 58 people who were abducted and held hostage by criminal gangs in central Kogi State, while one victim died during the operation.
Kidnappings are one of the many security challenges facing incoming President Bola Tinubu, who will be sworn in later this month after a February election disputed by the opposition.
"The Federal Capital Territory Police Command has rescued 58 kidnapped victims held hostage at Udulu Forest, Gegu Local Government Area of Kogi State," spokeswoman Josephine Adeh said.
Gegu is about 145 kilometres (90 miles) from Abuja, the capital.
Police did not say where the victims were kidnapped from or how long they had been in captivity.
One victim "unfortunately sustained injury during the rescue operation and died on the spot… The other 58 rescued victims are being stabilised in the hospital," Adeh said.
Police said the rescue was part of a "sustained joint operation with other security agencies and vigilantes and hunters from the various local communities".
The "bandits" – as the criminal groups are known in Nigeria – engaged in a shootout before escaping, leaving their victims behind according to police.
Kidnappings are not new in Africa's most populous country, where Boko Haram jihadists made global headlines in 2014 when they abducted 276 schoolgirls in the north-eastern town of Chibok.
But hostage-taking has snowballed into a lucrative industry, with families and entire communities pooling their savings to pay for ransoms.
In an effort to curb the practice, the country's central bank last year changed the design of currency notes and imposed restrictions on weekly cash withdrawals.
The policy caused long queues at banks and triggered protests in parts of Nigeria.
Following a court order, the central bank in March said it would allow old naira notes back into circulation until the end of the year.