Abuja, Nigeria — Nigerian authorities say they have launched a search for 17 people abducted Tuesday in the capital, Abuja, by armed men disguised as police. Nigeria has seen a wave of mass abductions for ransom in the country’s north, but the insecurity rarely reaches the capital.
The Abuja Police Command on Tuesday made the announcement on Twitter in response to a viral tweet by one of the abductees, Ameerah Sufyan.
Authorities said an investigation was under way and urged citizens with helpful intelligence on the matter to come forward. Police also asked residents to be calm and patient.
Sufyan made a post on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, calling for help after she said she and 16 others, including three pregnant women, had been abducted in broad daylight from their homes in Abuja by six men disguised as police officers.
Sufyan also sent broadcast messages on WhatsApp showing their location.
Their captors apparently were not aware she was using her phone. At intervals on Tuesday, she updated the location.
Yusuf Mariam, a spokesperson for the Abuja police commissioner, said, “We’re doing our best; we’re on it,” when asked for an update on the issue.
Sahabi Sufyan is Ameerah Sufyan’s brother. He says his sister sent him a message about her situation.
“Yesterday at about 1:17 p.m. she sent me a message, a sort of personal message I wouldn’t share,” said Sufyan. “She was picked at gunpoint, then they went across 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 on the gate and wanted to find out who, so she went and never came back.”
In recent months, Nigeria has seen a wave of violence including killings and kidnappings for ransom across various regions. The attacks are usually perpetrated by local armed gangs, but the capital has been relatively peaceful.
Issues of attacks or mass abductions are not common here. Last month, the governor of Kaduna state near Abuja, Nasir El-Rufai, warned that the threats in the state could be expanding to other places like Abuja.
Security experts also cautioned that if not addressed, Abuja could be targeted.
“This morning, she broadcast another message to her WhatsApp contacts; it’s like a farewell message to her parents that they should forgive her, but she used that opportunity to code some information about their whereabouts and where they’re heading to and the color of the van,” said Ya’u Deba.
Armed men detonated explosives and shot at worshippers in southwest Ondo State on June fifth, killing 40 people. Authorities blamed the attack on the group known as Islamic state of West Africa Province, or ISWAP.
On Saturday, gangs that attacked an Abuja-Kaduna train and abducted dozens of passengers released 11 of them.