Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Nigeria: The business of kidnapping

Nigeria: Rescued students return home after mass kidnapping

24 hours ago

More than 100 schoolchildren, kidnapped two weeks ago from their school in Kaduna, are back with their families. The practice of kidnapping for ransom is on the rise in Nigeria.

Young girls covered in pink burkas sit on chairs.
Most of the schoolchildren who were abducted are between the ages of 11 and 15Image: Ibrahim Yakubu/DW 

After an agonizing two weeks, over 100 kidnapped schoolchildren who were rescued in northern Nigeria on Sunday have been reunited with their families. 

The mass kidnapping of 287 students in Kuriga, in the state of Kaduna, earlier this month was the first mass abduction in the West African country since 2021.

The reported numbers for mass abductions in Nigeria are often lowered after people who went missing while fleeing attacks return home.

Authorities said 137 students, 76 girls and 61 boys, had been rescued in the neighboring state of Zamfara.

"In the early hours of March 24, 2024, the military working with local authorities and government agencies across the country in a coordinated search-and-rescue operation rescued the hostages," said army spokesperson Major General Edward Buba.

Kaduna Governor Uba Sani said the children were unharmed. "This is indeed a day of joy," he added.

An empty classroom with wooden desks and blackboard
Many parents in northwestern Nigeria are concerned about the safety of their children at schoolImage: Haidar Umar/AFP

Parents celebrate children's return

"We are thankful to the governor of Kaduna for his relentless efforts to ensure that the children return home," Nuhu Shu'aibu, a parent of one of the rescued children, told DW.

"We also thank the federal government and the security agencies for working day and night to see that our children are rescued. We are extremely happy that our children are back," Shu'aibu added. 

Jibril Gwadabe, another parent, told DW that since security has been beefed up, the children would be able to return to school soon. "Before, we didn't have a single policeman in the community, but now 60 have been deployed," Gwadabe said, adding that the presence of security personnel gave the community safety assurances.

Nigeria: Kidnappings on the rise


Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu welcomed the news and the "tireless dedication" of those who helped secure the children's release. He has faced growing pressure after promising to tackle Nigeria's many security challenges when he came to power last year.

In a message on X, formerly Twitter, Governor Sani thanked Tinubu and the Nigerian army for leading the rescue operation of the schoolchildren.

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Children released ahead of ransom deadline

The children were released days before a deadline to pay a $690,000 (€635,000) ransom.

Ransoms are commonly paid in Nigeria, but it is rare for officials to admit to payments. Tinubu had previously vowed to rescue the children "without paying a dime."

School abductions spotlight Nigeria's kidnapping crisis


Mass abductions in Nigeria were first carried out by the jihadi group Boko Haram, which kidnapped 276 students from a girls' school in Chibok in 2014. Though some of the girls have since found freedom, more than 100 remain in captivity.

In the past decade, the tactic has been widely adopted by criminal gangs, known locally as bandits, without ideological affiliation.

No group has claimed responsibility for the Kaduna kidnapping.

However, two people with extensive knowledge of the security crisis in northern Nigeria told The Associated Press news agency that the identities of the kidnappers were known and that they were hiding in the forest.

Edited by: Chrispin Mwakideu

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