Kaduna resident Gideon Gambo is still reeling from a harsh reality: Two of his brothers who were crew members on the Kaduna-bound passenger train attacked Monday by suspected bandits are still missing.

He said it was like any other journey they had undertaken in the past. But armed men derailed the train by sabotaging the tracks and then opened fire on it.

Gambo said he feared for his brothers’ lives.

“You know, they shot sporadically, and because they shot sporadically, a lot of people were hit by stray bullets,” he said.

Authorities have confirmed that eight people were killed and 41 were injured in the attack.

The Nigerian Railway Corporation this week said 362 people were aboard the train and that it had not been able to reach 136 of them. Nigerian emergency and railway officials said more than 100 families had reported relatives missing. 

Barely 24 hours after the incident, suspected attackers began contacting families of missing people, including Gambo’s family. He said they were still negotiating with the attackers.

“Each person [who was] on the train is being asked to give the numbers of their loved ones,” Gambo said. “So, yes, they’re actually at the process of negotiations now. We don’t know what they’re demanding for now ,but at least we’re just keeping tabs with them. … They’ll tell us exactly how much they’re demanding.”

Nigerian railway authorities said efforts were underway to reach more missing people and their families.

Longtime problem

Armed gangs, often hiding in forests, have been terrorizing northwestern and central Nigerian states for about two years.

Kaduna state is the latest hot spot. In one week, gangs raided local communities, highways, an airport and a train station.

Nigerian security forces have been carrying out operations to try to rescue victims and prevent further attacks. On Thursday, police in Kaduna state discovered and defused an improvised explosive device in Rigasa, where the train station is located.

Security analyst Kabiru Adamu said Kaduna “consistently occupies the first, second or third level in the ranking of states that are security-challenged in the country at the moment. There’s no gainsaying the fact that the funds from this kidnap for ransom is now being used by the gunmen as well as terrorist groups to fund their activities.”

The Abuja-Kaduna train route has been suspended, forcing travelers to again rely on even more dangerous highways.

The security situation prompted discussion this week in the Nigerian House of Representatives about allowing citizens to carry firearms for self-defense.

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