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Nigerian Students Rescued From Kuriga Mass Abduction

Officials have confirmed that Nigerian pupils abducted in a mass kidnapping in the north-western town of Kuriga earlier this month have been “unharmed.”

Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State credited the rescue to the bravery of the security forces.

Initially, school authorities reported that over 280 children were taken, but the army stated that 137 hostages had been liberated.

The operation occurred in the early hours of Sunday, just days before a ransom deadline, although there’s a discrepancy in the reported numbers.

In past incidents, hostages managed to escape from their captors as they journeyed to forest hideouts.

A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity to the media, disclosed that one of the abducted teachers from Kuriga died while in captivity. The group endured 17 days in captivity.

Kidnapping gangs, referred to as bandits, have targeted thousands of individuals in recent years, particularly in the north-west.

Despite a decrease in the overall number of such attacks over the past year, six mass abductions have unsettled parts of northern Nigeria this month.

Usually, hostages are released after a ransom is paid. The kidnappers demanded $690,000 (£548,000) for the release of the Kuriga children, aged between eight and 15, but the government had declared its refusal to pay any ransom.

Governor Sani expressed joy in a statement, thanking Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu for ensuring the safe release of the abducted schoolchildren.

President Tinubu welcomed the news on Twitter, emphasizing the significance of collaboration between the government and state authorities on security matters.

Military representative Maj. Gen. Edward Buba stated that 76 girls and 61 boys were rescued from Zamfara state, which shares a border with Kaduna to the north-west.

The military has released photographs of some of the children, depicting them sitting in buses, appearing dusty and fatigued.

According to a security source cited by Reuters, the students were liberated in a forest and are being transported to Kaduna for medical assessment before reuniting with their families.

The mass abduction occurred during an assembly on the morning of March 7 in a compound housing both a junior and senior school.

Witnesses reported that gunmen on motorcycles arrived during the assembly around 08:30, ultimately seizing 187 students from the secondary school and 125 from the local primary school. The number of abducted teachers remains unclear. Twenty-five students later returned.

Tragically, one pupil, believed to be 14 years old, succumbed to injuries sustained by gunfire.

Most abductions in north-west Nigeria are attributed to criminal gangs seeking ransom payments.

In an effort to combat Nigeria’s burgeoning kidnapping industry, a contentious law criminalizing ransom payments was enacted in 2022, carrying a minimum 15-year jail sentence, though no arrests have been made.

Earlier this year, the family of sisters kidnapped in the capital, Abuja, contested a police statement claiming the security forces had rescued the girls, asserting that they had no option but to pay the ransom.

Global outrage ensued in 2014 when Islamist militants from the Boko Haram group abducted nearly 300 girls in Nigeria’s north-eastern town of Chibok. While most victims have been freed or escaped since then, dozens remain missing.

On Saturday, the army reported rescuing 17 students and a woman abducted just days after the Kuriga attack on a school in Sokoto, also in the north-west.

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