Nigerian officials say they have begun a search for 17 people abducted by armed men posing as police in the capital Abuja on Tuesday. Nigeria has seen a wave of mass kidnappings for ransom in the north of the country, but insecurity rarely reaches the capital.
The Abuja Police Command made the announcement on Tuesday in response to a viral tweet by one of the kidnappers, Amira Sufiyan.
Officials said an investigation was underway and urged citizens with helpful intelligence on the matter to come forward. The police also asked the residents to remain calm and patient.
Sufyan made a post on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, in which she said that she and 16 others, including three pregnant women, were abducted in broad daylight from their homes in Abuja by six men disguised as police officers.
Sufyan also sent broadcast messages on WhatsApp showing his location.
Her captors apparently had no idea that she was using her phone. At intervals on Tuesday, he updated the location.
Abuja Police Commissioner’s spokesman Yusuf Mariam said, “We are doing our best; We are on it,” when asked for an update on the issue.
Sahabi Sufiyan is the brother of Amira Sufiyan. He says that his sister sent him a message about his condition.
“Yesterday around 1:17 pm he sent me a message, a kind of private message that I will not share,” Sufyan said. “She was picked up at gunpoint, then they went to other people’s houses and took them too. They didn’t know her phone was with her. She told the younger sister that she heard a knock at the gate and wanted to find out That who, so she left and never came back.”
In recent months, Nigeria has seen a wave of violence in various areas, including killings and kidnappings for ransom. Attacks are usually carried out by local armed gangs, but the capital has been relatively peaceful.
Issues of assault or mass kidnapping are not common here. Last month, the governor of Kaduna State near Abuja, Nasser al-Rufai, warned that threats in the state could spread to other places such as Abuja.
Security experts also warned that Abuja could be targeted if not addressed.
“This morning, she circulated another message on her WhatsApp contacts; it’s like a farewell message to her parents that they should forgive her, but she used that opportunity to share some information about their whereabouts. Done to code and where are they going and color vans,” Yau Deba said.
On June 5, armed men detonated explosives and shot worshipers in southwest Ondo state, killing 40. Officials attributed the attack to a group called the Islamic State of West Africa Province, or ISWAP.
On Saturday, gangs that attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train and kidnapped dozens of passengers released 11 of them.