President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday vowed to rescue 31 hostages taken in a train attack and return them “safe and unhurt”, his office said, five months after their abduction.
Gangs of Bandits with no ideological or religious motives are known to kidnap for ransom in northwest and central Nigeria.
On March 28, armed men blew up a train travelling between Abuja and Kaduna and opened fire, killing eight people, wounding 26, and taking an unspecified number of passengers hostage.
A week later, they freed one hostage — a top bank executive — as a goodwill gesture for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, because of his “advanced age”.
Dozens of hostages have already been freed following negotiations, but 31 remain in captivity.
“I have been informed that at last count, there remain about 31 people in the hands of the kidnappers,” Buhari told representatives of the families of the hostages in Abuja on Thursday.
He said his government would ensure the safe return of the remaining hostages to their families.
“My primary concern is to get everyone released safe and unhurt,” he assured.
The president commended the security forces on recent successes against kidnappers and “terrorists”.
“In the past couple of days, you must have heard about the number of terrorists neutralised by the military, and a number of hostages freed. These efforts will not stop, or reduce,” he said.
“We must take the fight to the terrorists and demonstrate that there is no hiding place for them within the borders of our country,” he said.
“Each one of them will be hunted, and pursued and spoken to in the language that they understand,” he added.
Nigeria is battling myriad security challenges, including a 13-year-old insurgency in the northeast, mass kidnappings in the northwest as well as separatist tensions and oil thefts in the south.
The government is under increasing pressure to end the violence, with the security agencies appearing over-stretched on all fronts.