Authorities in north-west Nigeria say they have freed 100 women and children who were seized by bandits in a raid during which four people were killed, the BBC is reporting.
The group, mainly mothers nursing babies, were abducted on June 8 in Zamfara state.
The state government said the victims were released without any ransom being paid, but gave no further details.
The group will now be given medical checks and debriefed before they return to their homes.
A spate of kidnappings has taken place in the region during recent months.
Since December 2020, more than 1,000 people have been abducted. Most have later been freed, reportedly after ransoms were paid, but some have been killed.
Authorities have blamed the incidents on bandits, a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely motivated by money. Many of the gangs are former cattle herders.
“The herders now see kidnapping and pillaging as more lucrative than the herding,” security analyst Kabiru Adamu told the BBC. “The biggest cow would go for 200,000 naira but one kidnapping would fetch millions.”
Since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Borno state, more armed groups have resorted to mass abduction of students.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the military to flush out criminals in Zamfara and the neighbouring states of Kaduna and Katsina.
Earlier this week, during a raid against a criminal gang, a Nigerian air force plane was shot down on the border of Zamfara and Kaduna states. The pilot survived the attack by ejecting from the plane and fleeing to safety.
The air force said it had mounted day and night air operations against the bandits in collaboration with ground forces. It was in one of the operations that the fighter jet was brought down on Sunday.
“Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralised and several of their hideouts destroyed,” the Nigerian Air Force said in a statement.
While there have been several military plane crashes this year, this is the first reported case of armed gangs downing one.