At least 35 women are missing after kidnappers seized guests returning from a wedding in northwestern Nigeria, officials told AFP on Monday.
The mass kidnapping in Katsina state is the largest in a series of recent abductions across Africa’s most populous country.
Police spokesman Abubakar Aliyu said “suspected armed bandits ambushed and kidnapped about 35 women” coming back from the wedding in the Sabuwa area on Thursday night.
The state’s internal security commissioner Nasiru Muaz gave a higher figure, saying more than 50 people were seized on the way back to Damari village after escorting the bride to the groom’s home.
“Officials visited the village and were told that 53 people were taken,” he said.
“It was quite risky for a convoy conveying a bride to drive in the dark in such a bandits-prone area amid singing and ululating.
“The bandits seized that opportunity and took them away,” he said.
The commissioner urged residents to avoid travelling at night and said security personnel were trying to find and rescue the captives.
Kidnapping for ransom is a major problem in Nigeria, with criminal gangs targeting highways, apartments and even snatching pupils from schools.
Gangs known locally as bandits operate out of bases hidden in forests across the northwest and central states.
At the start of the year, criminals abducted five young sisters near the capital Abuja and killed one when a ransom deadline passed, sparking a national outcry.
Last week, kidnappers attacked a Nigerian school bus and abducted five children along with their teachers in southwestern Ekiti state.
Two traditional rulers were killed in a separate attack in the same state last Monday, while gunmen shot dead another traditional monarch and kidnapped his wife in Kwara state on Thursday.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to power last year promising to address insecurity in Nigeria.
The country is grappling with jihadists in the northeast, criminal militias in the northwest and a flareup of intercommunal violence in central states.
Nigerian risk consultancy SBM Intelligence said it had recorded 3,964 people abducted in Nigeria since Tinubu took office in May.