ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen attacked a local mining site in northcentral Nigeria, killing “many security personnel” and abducting some workers including four Chinese nationals, authorities said on Thursday.
The attackers on Wednesday evening “invaded” the mining site in Shiroro council area of Niger state which is prone to such attacks and opened fire on those present before fleeing with some staffers including the Chinese, according to Emmanuel Umar, the state commissioner for security.
A security team deployed to respond to the attack “engaged the terrorists and there was a yet-to-be-determined number of casualties from both sides,” said Umar.
Locals and authorities in Shiroro told The Associated Press that bodies are still being recovered and the death toll remains unclear because of how remote the area is. The Niger governor's office said in a different statement that “many security personnel” lost their lives in the attack.
“Security forces mobilized reinforcement for the manhunt of the remaining terrorists … and rescue of the injured victims including security personnel that sustained various degrees of injuries have been taken to a government medical facility in the state for treatment,” the official said of the attack in the state which borders Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Authorities did not disclose the name of the company, the latest affected in attacks targeting foreigners over the years in Nigeria though not as frequent as they used to be. Three Chinese nationals were abducted in a similar attack in Niger state earlier this year while working at a hydroelectric power plant.
In November, Chinese authorities issued a travel advisory warning their citizens and companies against travel to “high-risk” areas in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Wednesday’s attack is the latest incident in a cycle of violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in the past year. A growing kidnap-for-ransom syndrome has also seen more victims held in captivity for months, including dozens kidnapped in a train attack near the capital city in March.
The state of Nigeria’s security has deteriorated under President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general who became president in 2015. Frequent attacks in the northwest and northcentral parts of Nigeria are blamed on armed groups that authorities have said are mostly young semi-nomadic herdsmen from the Fulani tribe in conflict with farming communities over limited access to water and land. Some of the rebellious herdsmen are now working with Islamist extremist rebels in the country's northeast in targeting remote communities.