Dozens of Nigerian seminary students freed after months in captivity

·2-min read

Gunmen in Nigeria have freed the remaining pupils from more than 100 who were kidnapped from an Islamic seminary in northwestern Niger State nearly three months ago.

Heavily armed criminal gangs snatched 136 pupils from the seminary in Tegina in Niger State's Rafi district on 30 May.

The 200 or so gunmen used motorcycles to transport the pupils to their rural hideout.

Six of the pupils died in captivity and a further 15 escaped in June, according to school officials.

On Thursday the head of the seminary Abubakar Alhassan announced the remaining pupils had been freed.

“The pupils have all been released. We are now conveying them home," he said without giving details of how, or whether a ransom had been paid.

TV5 Monde television showed footage of the pupils eating after their release.

Growing violence

Northwest and central Nigeria have seen a surge in attacks, looting and mass abductions by criminal gangs known locally as bandits.

But this year gangs began targeting schoolchildren and students as a way of obtaining bigger ransom payments.

Around 1,000 pupils have been kidnapped since December. Most have been released after negotiations, but dozens are still being held in forest camps.

Gunmen who kidnapped more than 100 students from a Baptist high school in northwestern Kaduna State released 15 more of those hostages after collecting ransom, a representative of the families said on Sunday.

Violence in northwest and central Nigeria has its roots in years-long tensions and tit-for-tat armed raids between farmers and nomadic herders over grazing land and water resources.

But insecurity has worsened as criminal gangs emerged involved in cattle rustling, looting villages and mass kidnapping. Most of them are based in vast forests across Kaduna, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara states.

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered military operations and air strikes on bandit camps but attacks have not stopped.

Some local governors have attempted amnesty deals with the bandits but most have failed.

(with AFP)

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