At least 39 people kidnapped early Monday by gunmen in Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna have regained their freedom later in the day, an official said.

The kidnapped victims were rescued hours later by Nigerian troops during a gun duel with the gunmen along the busy Abuja-Kaduna expressway, and one of the gunmen was killed, said Samuel Aruwan, a commissioner for Kaduna state ministry of internal security and home affairs, in a statement reaching Xinhua on Tuesday.

They were passengers travelling to Onitsha, a business district in the southeastern state of Anambra from northwest state of Sokoto when they were intercepted and kidnapped by the gunmen, said Aruwan.

He said one civilian died after being hit by a stray bullet fired by the criminals while troops evacuated the other injured person to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Aruwan said the troops were still trailing other fleeing bandits to areas said to be their enclave.

The northern region of Nigeria have witnessed a series of attacks by armed groups in recent months. There have also been recurring incidents of livestock rustling and armed banditry in the region.

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