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Nigeria Repatriates 12,000 Refugees

FILE: An overloaded car travels through the Assaga refugee camp in Diffa on May 17, 2016, close to the Niger-Nigeria border.

Nigeria has brought home around 12,000 people who fled violence in the northwest of the country earlier this year, including from neighboring Niger, an official and a returnee said Wednesday.

On Monday, more than 8,000 people boarded buses outside a makeshift camp at a public school in Jibia to go home to Shimfida, after fleeing months earlier following raids by bandits, Jibia political administrator Bashir Sabi'u said.

More than 4,000 were being brought home to the same village from Maradi in Niger.

"We have returned more than 12,000... to Shimfida village following (the) return of relative peace in the area," he said.

"These include 4,700 who sought refuge in Maradi across the border in Niger."

An official in Niger's Maradi said the "voluntary returns" had started on Sunday after what the Nigerian authorities described as improved security.

The official said improved security had prompted their return to Shimfida village in Katsina state near the Nigerien border, but criminal gangs known locally as bandits continue to terrorise communities in the wider region despite military operations against them.

"They have informed us that they are progressively returning people home," said Mahamane Laouali Ibrahim, prefect of Maradi's Madarounfa district.

Ibrahim Mairodi, a father of 11, was among those who returned to Shimfida this week.

The 42-year-old farmer said he and his neighbors found their homes partly destroyed and empty.

The bandits removed the roofing, doors and windows of all the houses in the village, "leaving them bare", he said.

Over the past two years, violence has displaced almost one million people in northwest and central Nigeria, while an additional 80,000 have fled across the border to Niger.

Nigeria's ministry of humanitarian affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.