Kuriga kidnap: Gunmen free Nigerian pupils taken in mass abduction

Kuriga kidnap: Gunmen free Nigerian pupils taken in mass abduction
Kuriga kidnap: Gunmen free Nigerian pupils taken in mass abduction

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ABUJA ‑ Nigerian pupils taken by gunmen in a mass abduction in the north-western town of Kuriga earlier this month have been freed “unharmed”, officials said.

Kaduna state governor Uba Sani said they had been rescued thanks to the courage of the security forces.

The school authorities had said more than 280 children were taken, but the army said 137 hostages had been freed.

The operation took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, days before a ransom deadline.

Officials have not yet commented on the discrepancy in numbers. The children, aged eight to 15, and one teacher, were abducted on March 7.

Kidnap gangs, known as bandits, have seized thousands of people in recent years, especially in the north-west.

There had been a reduction in targeting of schools over the past year, but this month six mass abductions have rocked parts of northern Nigeria.

Those kidnapped are usually freed after a ransom is paid.

This time, the kidnappers had demanded $690,000 (£548,000). The government had said it would not pay any ransom.

In his statement, governor Sani praised Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu “for ensuring that the abducted Kuriga schoolchildren are released unharmed”.

“The Nigerian Army also deserves special commendation for showing that with courage, determination and commitment, criminal elements can be degraded and security restored in our communities,” Sani said.

The mass abduction occurred on the morning of March 7 during school assembly.

According to witnesses, the pupils were in the assembly ground around 08:30 (07:30 GMT) when dozens of gunmen on motorcycles rode through the school, eventually taking away 187 students from a secondary school and 125 from the local primary school. Twenty-five later returned.

One pupil, believed to be 14-years-old, died after being shot by the gunmen.

Most of the kidnaps in north-west Nigeria, including Kaduna state, are believed to be the work of criminal gangs trying to make money from ransoms.

In an attempt to curb Nigeria’s spiraling and lucrative kidnapping industry, a controversial law that made it a crime to make ransom payments was passed in 2022. It carries a jail sentence of at least 15 years, however no-one has ever been arrested.

Earlier this year, the family of a group of sisters kidnapped in the capital, Abuja, denied a police statement that the security forces had rescued the girls, saying that they had no choice but to pay the ransom.

There was global outrage when militants from the Boko Haram group seized nearly 300 girls in Nigeria’s north-eastern town of Chibok in 2014.

Most of the victims have either been freed or escaped since then, but dozens remain unaccounted for. — BBC

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