School kidnapping in Nigeria: Nearly 300 children released after two weeks in captivity

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nearly 300 Nigerian schoolchildren They were released more than two weeks after they were kidnapped in the northwestern state of Kaduna and taken into the forests, officials said on Sunday.

At least 1,400 students They have been kidnapped from Nigerian schools since 2014, when Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from Borno state. Chibok village. In recent years, kidnappings have been concentrated in the northwestern and central regions of the country, where dozens of armed groups often target villagers and travelers for ransom.

At least 17 other students In North Sokoto State They were also rescued after two weeks of being taken hostage, according to a statement issued on Saturday by the Sokoto State government. The statement noted that the rescue operation, like that of the Kaduna students, was coordinated by the Office of the Nigerian National Security Adviser.

Kaduna State Governor Oba Sani did not provide details about the release of 287 students kidnapped from their school in the remote town of Korega on March 7. At least 100 of them are 12 years old or younger.

In a statement, he thanked Nigerian President Bola Tinubu for “particularly ensuring the unharmed release of the kidnapped school children.”

Tinubu vowed to rescue the children “without paying ransom.” But ransoms are usually paid for kidnappings, often arranged by families, and it is rare for officials in Nigeria to acknowledge such payments.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Kaduna, which local residents blamed Bandit groups Known for mass killings and kidnappings for ransom in the conflict-torn northern region, most of them are former herders in conflict with settled communities.

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At least two people with extensive knowledge of the security crisis in northwestern Nigeria told the Associated Press The identity of the kidnappers is known.

Murtala Ahmed Rufai, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Usman Danfodio University, and Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, a cleric who negotiated with the bandits, said they were hiding in the forests of the vast, ungoverned region.

Arrests are rare in mass kidnappings in Nigeria, as victims are usually released only after desperate families pay ransom or through deals with government and security officials.

The Kaduna governor thanked the security forces and Nigerian officials for releasing the students. “I spent sleepless nights with National Security Advisor Nuhu Ribadu… fine-tuning strategies and coordinating the operations of the security agencies, which ultimately led to this successful outcome,” he said.

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