Worshippers were abducted from Jumu'at central mosque in Zugu town of northwestern Zamfara state, officials and witnesses say.

Heavily-armed gangs known locally as
Heavily-armed gangs known locally as "bandits" are rampant in northwest and central Nigeria, attacking villages and carrying out mass kidnappings for ransom. (TRTWorld)

Gunmen have kidnapped dozens of worshippers attending Friday afternoon prayers at a mosque in Nigeria's northwestern state of Zamfara. 

Mohammed Shehu, Zamfara police spokesperson said an unknown number of worshippers had been seized from Jumu'at central mosque in Zugu town, Bukkuyum local government area.

Zugu is 170 kilometres west of Zamfara state capital Gusau.

"The Zamfara state police command in collaboration with military and vigilantes have dispatched personnel for the search and rescue operation," he said.

Armed gangs are rife across Nigeria's northwest where they rob or kidnap for ransom, and violence has been increasing, while thinly stretched security forces often fail to stop the attacks.

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Gunmen posed as worshippers

Ibrahim Aminu, who was at the mosque told the Reuters news agency that the gunmen hid guns under their garments and pretended to be worshippers.

On entering the mosque compound, they pulled out their weapons and fired in the air, forcing people to run for cover, he said. The gunmen took dozens of worshippers and force-marched them to an unknown place.

Mohammed Bukar Zugu said his 22-year-old brother was among those kidnapped. The gunmen later used his phone to call him and asked that he prepare a ransom. They did not say how much they wanted, he said.

Nigeria's military last month started launching air strikes against the armed gangs, known locally as bandits and says it has so far killed dozens of them.

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Source: Reuters