Abducted Nigerian schoolchildren have been freed, official says

Dakar, March 24, (dpa/GNA) – A group of nearly 300 schoolchildren, abducted by gunmen from their school in north-western Nigeria two weeks ago, are now reed, the regional government in the Nigerian state of Kaduna announced on Sunday.

“I wish to announce that our Kuriga school children have been released,” Uba Sani, the governor of Kaduna, said in a post to X, formerly Twitter.

The schoolchildren are unharmed, he said, and spoke of “operations of the security agencies, which eventually resulted in this successful outcome.”

He did not provide further details about the circumstances of their release.

“We … thank all Nigerians who prayed fervently for the safe return of the school children. This is indeed a day of joy,” Sani said.

An armed group had attacked a primary and secondary school in the village of Kuriga on March 7, and kidnapped 287 boys and girls.

According to a teacher who spoke on local television, the building was surrounded by heavily armed men shortly before school started in the early morning.

The gunmen forced the roughly 700 pupils and teachers to move to a wooded area. However, many children and adults were able to escape.

The north and central regions of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, have been plagued with occasional kidnappings by both criminal gangs and Islamist terror groups.

Almost exactly 10 years ago, in April 2014, the abduction of 276 schoolgirls by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Chibok in the north-eastern state of Borno caused worldwide horror. Dozens of the Chibok schoolgirls remain missing.

Boko Haram and other jihadist groups usually kidnap girls and young women to make political demands, force them into marriage or abuse them as sex and domestic slaves.

The gangs, on the other hand, primarily aim to extort ransom money.

According to the economic and security consultancy SB Morgen, ransom payments have become the main reason for kidnappings, due to Nigeria’s economic crisis.

According to SB Morgen, 3,620 people were kidnapped in 582 incidents in Nigeria in the twelve months between July 2022 and June 2023 alone, the vast majority of them in Kaduna.

The region where the school is located is considered a crime hotspot.

In recent months, smaller groups of people, mainly women and children, have repeatedly been kidnapped in the state.