April 20, 2024

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Korega kidnapping: Nigerian schoolboys who were kidnapped en masse released

Korega kidnapping: Nigerian schoolboys who were kidnapped en masse released

  • By Yusuf Akinbalu
  • BBC News, Lagos

Image source, Nigerian Army

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The students, some of whom are seen here after their release, were in the assembly yard of the school compound when the gunmen entered

Nigerian schoolboys kidnapped by gunmen in a mass kidnapping in the northwestern town of Korega earlier this month have been released “unharmed,” officials said.

Kaduna State Governor Oba Sani said they were rescued thanks to the bravery of the security forces.

School authorities said more than 280 children were kidnapped, but the army said 137 hostages had been freed.

She added that the operation took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, days before the deadline to pay the ransom.

Officials have not yet commented on the discrepancy in numbers.

In previous cases, hostages managed to escape their captors during a multi-day journey to their hideouts in the forest.

A senior government official, who requested to remain anonymous, told BBC Hausa that one of the teachers taken from Korega died in captivity. The group was detained for 17 days in total.

Kidnapping gangs, known as bandits, have kidnapped thousands of people in recent years, especially in the northwest.

Six mass kidnappings this month have rocked parts of northern Nigeria, despite an overall decline in the number of such attacks over the past year.

The kidnappers are usually released after paying the ransom.

The kidnappers had demanded $690,000 (£548,000) for the release of the Corega children, aged between eight and 15 years. The government said it would not pay any ransom.

“This is indeed a day of joy,” Governor Sanni said in a statement, in which he praised Nigerian President Bola Tinubu for ensuring the release of the kidnapped schoolchildren “unharmed.”

President, Who welcomed the news in a tweetHe said this shows the importance of cooperation between the government and state authorities, “especially in security matters.”

Military spokesman Major General Edward Buba said 76 girls and 61 boys were rescued from Zamfara state, which borders Kaduna to the northwest.

The army also published pictures of some children, showing them sitting on buses, looking dusty and exhausted.

Image source, Nigerian Army

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The kidnappers had demanded $690,000 in exchange for the release of the Korega children, pictured on Sunday morning

A security source told Reuters news agency that the students were released in a forest and taken to Kaduna for medical examinations before being allowed to see their families.

The mass kidnapping occurred on the morning of March 7 during a gathering in a complex that includes a middle and high school.

According to eyewitnesses, the students were at the gathering place at around 08:30 (07:30 GMT) when dozens of armed men entered on motorcycles, eventually taking 187 students from a secondary school and 125 students from the local primary school. It is not clear how many teachers were kidnapped. Twenty-five students later returned.

A schoolboy, believed to be 14 years old, died after being shot by gunmen.

It is believed that most kidnappings in northwest Nigeria are carried out by criminal gangs trying to make money from ransoms.

In an attempt to curb Nigeria's rising and lucrative kidnapping industry, a controversial law was passed in 2022 making it a crime to pay ransom. It is punishable by at least 15 years in prison, but no one has ever been arrested.

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

There was global outrage when Islamist militants from the Boko Haram group kidnapped nearly 300 girls in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok in 2014.

Most of the victims have since been released or fled, but dozens of them are still missing.

The army said on Saturday that it had rescued 17 students and a woman who were kidnapped a few days after the Korega attack from a school in Sokoto, also in the northwest.

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