Gunmen who carried out a high-profile attack on a train in northwest Nigeria last month have released a video showing about two dozen of the hostages they kidnapped in the assault.
The images were the first indicator of how many passengers may have been abducted in the brazen raid, in which eight people were killed.
In the two-minute video, around two dozen people are seen sitting in a forest area, including men and women. At least one man appears to be from Southeast Asia while at least one another appears Caucasian. Behind them, a group of gunmen stands in a line.
“We are the passengers who left Abuja for Kaduna on Monday, March 28, 2022. We were seized on our way,” one man says in the Hausa language in the video.
“Since then it is only us that knows the dire situation we are in, there are women and children, there are aged people with health challenges.”
AFP could not independently verify the video, which was disseminated on social media. But the CEO of Nigeria’s Bank of Agriculture, Alwan Ali-Hassan, appears in the recording.
He appeared in a previous video before he was later released in what his captors said was a goodwill gesture for the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan.
Ali-Hassan’s family confirmed last week it was him in the first video and that he had been freed by his captors.
The sophisticated attack saw gunmen blow up the tracks to halt a train from the capital Abuja to Kaduna — Nigeria’s flagship rail service.
They then opened fire on the coaches before seizing an unknown number of passengers from the train’s so-called VIP section.
There has been no claim of responsibility, although the finger of blame swiftly pointed at heavily armed criminal gangs known as bandits who have ravaged parts of northwest and central Nigeria.
But analysts said the propaganda-style format of the first video, some of the language and the use of explosives in the attack have raised worries that jihadists may have participated in the attack.
Bandit gangs go after financial gain and ransom payments and usually have no ideological or religious motives. But there is concern among local authorities and analysts over alliances with Islamist militants.
Nigeria’s security forces are battling a 12-year jihadist insurgency in the country’s northeast where Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) operate.