Police in north-west Nigeria say they have rescued 187 villagers abducted from their homes by criminal gangs.
Heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits have plagued northwest and central Nigeria for years, raiding and looting villages and abducting for ransom.
The victims, who had spent several weeks in captivity, were freed by security forces following an operation in Tsibiri forest in Zamfara state, police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said.
“The abducted victims who spent many weeks in captivity were unconditionally rescued following extensive search and rescue operations that lasted for hours,” Shehu said in a statement.
The kidnapped victims include the young and elderly people. Some are nursing mothers with their infants.
Pictures and video circulated by police to the media showed some of the people with torn clothes and struggling to sit as they waited to be transported back to their homes.
They looked hungry and emaciated – an indication of the harsh conditions they had been through before they were rescued.
They have been handed over to the state government for medical checks before they can rejoin their families.
Last month, the authorities in Zamfara and neighbouring Kaduna state shut down phone communications to enable the security forces to fight armed gangs.
The gangs have been responsible for a wave of violence that has included killings and kidnappings.
Some of those targeted were schoolchildren.