Nigerian children released after being abducted from school

Nigerian children released after being abducted from school
  • PublishedMarch 25, 2024

Students abducted by gunmen from a school in northern Nigeria have been rescued, the Nigerian army says, days before a deadline to pay a $1.1 million ransom. 

The kidnapping of a reported 287 children on March 7 in Kuriga in the north-western Kaduna State was the first mass abduction in Africa’s most populous nation since 2021 when over 150 students were taken from a high school.

Military spokesperson Major General Edward Buba said 137 hostages — 76 females and 61 males — were rescued in the early hours of Sunday in neighbouring state of Zamfara.

Mr Buba said the military worked with local authorities and government agencies across the country in a coordinated search operation and rescued the hostages early on March 24. 

A security source said the students 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.

It was not immediately known whether security forces had to extract the hostages from the hands of their captors or whether there had been any clash in the process.

Kaduna Governor Uba Sani had earlier put the total number of hostages at over 200. Officials were not immediately available to comment on the discrepancy in reported hostage numbers.

“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,” Mr Sani said.

Army vehicles on a road.
Nigerian army patrolled the area near LEA Primary and Secondary School Kuriga after the students were kidnapped.(AP Photo: Sunday Alamba)

Last week, the gunmen demanded 1 billion naira ($1.1 million) for the release of the missing children and staff.

However, the government said it would not pay any ransom, after the practice was outlawed in 2022.

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

The tactic has since been widely adopted by criminal gangs without ideological affiliation seeking ransom payments.

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


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