Home International Nearly 300 Nigerian pupils released after abduction in Kaduna

Nearly 300 Nigerian pupils released after abduction in Kaduna

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Nearly 300 pupils and staff abducted by gunmen from a school in northern Nigeria this month have been released unharmed, the office of the governor of the state of Kaduna said on Sunday, days before a deadline to pay a $690,000 ransom.

A boy holds a sign to protest against the kidnapping of hundreds of school pupils by gunmen after the Friday prayer in Kaduna, Nigeria, March 8, 2024. Picture: Reuters

By Ahmed Kingimi

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Nearly 300 pupils and staff abducted by gunmen from a school in northern Nigeria this month have been released unharmed, the office of the governor of the state of Kaduna said on Sunday, days before a deadline to pay a $690,000 ransom.

The kidnapping of 287 pupils on March 7 in Kuriga, a dusty town in north-western Kaduna state, was the first mass abduction in Africa’s most populous nation since 2021 when more than 150 pupils were taken from a high school in Kaduna.

A security source said the pupils were rescued in a forest in neighbouring Zamfara state and were being escorted by the army to the Kaduna capital for medical tests before being reunited with their families.

Abductions at Nigerian schools were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized 276 pupils from a girls’ school in Chibok in north-eastern Borno State a decade ago. Some of the girls have never been released.

Since then the tactic has been widely adopted by criminal gangs without ideological affiliation.

Kaduna governor Uba Sani said the country’s National Security Adviser coordinated the release of the Kuriga schoolchildren. He did not provide further details.

“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.

That’s as a nationwide strike for better pay and working conditions entered its second week.

The gunmen last week demanded a total of 1 billion naira ($690,000) for release of the missing children and staff.

The government had said it would not pay any ransom. The practice was outlawed in 2022.

But kidnappings by criminal gangs demanding ransoms have become an almost daily occurrence, especially in northern Nigeria, tearing apart families and communities that have to pool savings to pay ransoms, often forcing them to sell land, cattle and grain to secure the release of their loved ones.

– REUTERS

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