Nigerian kidnap gangs have been targeting schools and villages in the northern region. / Photo: AP

Nigeria's military has asked northern neighbour Niger to arrest a kidnapping gang leader it says is among the most wanted in the country, a defence spokesperson said on Thursday.

Defence Headquarters spokesperson Major General Edward Buba said Halilu Buzu was a Niger national and a major arms supplier with links to Libyan arms dealers.

Buba said in a statement that Buzu also operated an illegal gold mine in Zamfara, one of the states hardest hit by kidnappings.

"When troops closes in on him, he move s across the border into the Republic of Niger for refuge," Buba said.

'Hold accountable'

"At this time, we are, through the appropriate channels, calling on the Nigerien authorities to apprehend and hold him accountable for his atrocities."

In November 2022, the Nigerian army said it had killed Halilu Buzu alongside other kidnapping gang leaders, but Buba told Reuters on Thursday that "it is not uncommon to have different people bear (the) same name even among terrorists."

The military said members of Buzu's armed gang had killed 19 villagers last week during an attack in Zamfara.

Nigeria's northwest region has been plagued by banditry for years, which has resulted in the killings of thousands.

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