Nigerian village celebrates return of kidnapped students


KURIGA, Nigeria (Reuters) – The entire village of Kuriga chanted “Our children are back!” They ran towards the convoy of buses shouting. and “Alhamdulillah”, meaning “Thank you, Lord”, to welcome home the more than 100 students and staff who were abducted this month in Nigeria’s northwest.

The army announced on Sunday that it had rescued 137 hostages – 76 women and 61 men – in the neighboring state of Zamfara, days before a deadline to pay a ransom of 1 billion naira ($767,000) for their release.

The students reported that they were marched through the jungle for more than two weeks, forced to sleep under trees, fed half-cooked rice and given only dirty water to drink, in an effort to hide from authorities.

“Even the bandits were hungry,” said Amina Alhassan, one of the kidnapped students, speaking from the bus window in Curiga.

“We used our dirty headscarves as sanitary pads… We were crying and praying every day.”

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Tanko Musa, one of the freed students, said that the kidnappers told him that the government had paid the ransom and as a result he could be released.

“We don’t know how much was paid, but they said the government paid them,” he said.

Earlier this week, Information Minister Mohammed Idris said no ransom had been paid.

A security source said they saw 14 black bags, which they believed contained ransom money, being delivered to an area in Zamfara state where the students were being held after being kidnapped on March 7.

Relieved parents crowded around the buses to catch a glimpse of their children they thought they had lost.

“We had no hope of seeing our children again,” said Yunusa Musa, whose two children, 19-year-old Hafstu and 16-year-old Zaytuna, were among those abducted.

UNUSA called on the Nigerian government to deploy troops in and around the town to allow villagers to farm the land they have had to abandon due to rampant insecurity.

Kidnappings in Nigerian schools were first carried out by the jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized 276 students from a girls’ school in Chibok, in northeastern Borno state, a decade ago. Some of them never came back.

But since then, criminal gangs regardless of ideological affiliation have adopted the strategy to obtain ransom money.

Kidnapping has become an almost daily occurrence, especially in northern Nigeria, tearing apart families and communities that have to scrape together savings to pay ransom.

Neither Nigerian presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelele nor Information Minister Mohammed Idris responded to requests for comment on whether ransom was paid in this case.

(Reporting by Garba Muhammad, Writing by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Russ Russell)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters,


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