Nigerian troops and village vigilantes rescue kidnapped university students

Nigerian troops and village vigilantes rescue kidnapped university students
Nigerian troops and village vigilantes rescue kidnapped university students

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Nigerian security forces have rescued students kidnapped from a university in northern Kogi state, along with other victims held by the abductors, the army and state government said on Sunday.

Kogi information commissioner Kingsley Femi Fanwo said security forces were involved in a shootout with the armed gang that carried out Thursday’s abduction at Confluence University of Science and Technology.

The state had enlisted the help of local hunters who know the Kogi terrain, and a security agent and hunter were wounded.

The Nigerian army said in a separate statement that troops, other security agencies and local vigilantes were involved in “a fierce firefight” with the kidnappers.

“The superior firepower of the troops led to the kidnappers abandoning nine of the kidnapped students, who were subsequently rescued,” the army said.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has ruled out the payment of ransoms for the abducted schoolchildren. He instead directed security agencies to urgently rescue the children and “in the process to ensure that not a dime is paid for ransom.”

The victims were among more than 100 people kidnapped by gunmen during Friday night raids on three villages in northwest Nigeria, in the latest abduction of villagers in a region blighted by widespread insecurity.

Kidnapping has become endemic in Nigeria’s northwest as roving gangs of armed men abduct people from villages, highways and schools, and demand ransom money from their relatives.

AlHajji Bala, head of a district in the Birnin-Magaji local government area of Zamfara, said gunmen attacked the villages of Gora, Madomawa and Jambuzu and that 38 men and 67 women and children were missing.

“But the number of people abducted could be more than that,” he said.

Zamfara is a hotspot for kidnapping gangs who carry out attacks and retreat into forests where they have set up camps. The Nigerian military has bombed some of the camps but attacks continue.

Yezid Abubakar, Zamfara police spokesperson, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Aminu Aliyu Asha, the Madomawa village head, said gunmen arrived in his village on motorbikes and shot sporadically before kidnapping several people.

“The abduction breaches the peace agreement between us and bandits. In February this year, we made several ransom payments in order to stop them from attacking our territory,” said Asha.

Nusa Sani said his two brothers were among those abducted, while another resident, Garba Kira, added that among the abducted were 15 passengers in a lorry that was passing through the villages.

Mass kidnappings were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram when they seized more than 200 students a decade ago, but the practice has been adopted by armed gangs with no known ideological affiliation and has grown as Nigerians grapple with economic hardship.

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