ABUJA, Nigeria — Gunmen attacked a train near Nigeria’s capital on Monday night with explosives and gunfire, killing an unspecified number of the nearly 1,000 passengers on board, authorities and survivors told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The attackers used explosives to first blow up the rail track before opening fire on the train near Abuja in northwest Nigeria, according to Fidet Okhiria, chief executive of the state-owned Nigerian Railway Corporation. Many people are also feared to have been abducted, he said.
Authorities could not immediately confirm the number of passengers on the train but local media reported that nearly 1,000 were on board. “There were casualties but we have not been able to confirm the number,” Mr. Okhiria said of the attack, the latest in a series of other train assaults.
Abdulwadud Ahmad, a survivor, said he knew of several passengers killed including someone sitting close to him.
“They bombed the track and started exchanging fire with the security inside the train,” he told the AP. “They subdued the security, then came into the train and kidnapped a lot of people.”
The train service is a popular route for many in Nigeria’s capital and in the neighboring Kaduna state as travelers continue to stay away from roads notorious for kidnappings.
The attack occurred in Katari in Kaduna state, 55 miles from Nigeria’s capital, triggering fears and concerns over the safety of Abuja.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but suspicion quickly fell on the armed groups who have carried out thousands of abductions and killings in the northwest and central states of the West African nation.
The train service on the route has been suspended.
The state government in Kaduna — one of the states worst hit by the cycle of violence in Nigeria’s troubled northern region — said it had completed the evacuation of “trapped” passengers with help from the security forces.
There have been at least three attacks reported on the Abuja-Kaduna train service in the last year, often carried out by the armed groups in Nigeria’s troubled north whom authorities have declared terrorist organizations.