Nigeria: the bandit warlords of Zamfara

    In an attempt to find answers, BBC Africa Eye has spent more than two years tracking down and speaking to some of the most notorious bandit warlords in Zamfara.

    Over the last decade, Zamfara State, in north western Nigeria, has been engulfed by violence. Gangs of young men ride into villages on motorbikes, armed with Kalshnikovs and machetes, to burn, rape, steal, and kill.

    They appear on the roads without warning, shooting drivers and dragging terrified passengers from their cars to be ransomed or shot. Even children are not safe: hundreds of kids have been abducted from boarding schools across the state and held captive—again, for ransom—at bandit hideouts deep in the forests.

    Thousands of people have been killed in this conflict across the north west, and close to a million more are now displaced from their homes. But despite the scale of the suffering, the crisis remains poorly understood—in part because it is so dangerous for journalists to travel in rural areas. Massacres and mass abductions make headlines, but the lack of on-the-ground reporting has left basic questions unanswered: Who are these bandits? What do they want? How and why did this violence take hold?

    In an attempt to find answers, BBC Africa Eye has spent more than two years tracking down and speaking to some of the most notorious bandit warlords in Zamfara. At huge personal risk, a young Nigerian journalist and law student, Yusuf Anka, visited bandit leaders in remote encampments across the state—including one of the men who, in February 2021, abducted nearly 300 girls from a high school in Jangebe MORE

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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