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Abducted Schoolchildren Freed – Nigerian Authorities

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The mass kidnapping happened in the north of the country in early March, with gunmen demanding a hefty ransom

Nigerian authorities have announced the release of over 100 children and school staff kidnapped on March 7 in Kaduna State, in the north of the country. It was the biggest kidnapping targeting a school in Nigeria since July 2021.

With numerous criminal gangs and terrorist groups active across the Western African nation, Nigeria has for years been plagued by such abductions, which have often focused on schoolchildren. This month alone, at least two other kidnappings have taken place in the country, involving more than 200 people, mostly women and children.

Criminals in such cases usually demand a ransom in exchange for the hostages’ release.

The harrowing trend began in 2014, when Islamist extremists from Boko Haram abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok village, Borno State.

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FILE PHOTO: Armed Nigerian army officers in Awka, Nigeria, on February 24, 2023.
African state carries out anti-terrorist operation

Initially, the reported number of hostages in the March 7 abduction in the remote town of Kuriga was 287. However, government spokesperson Abdulaziz Abdulaziz told Al Jazeera that a total of 137 students had been freed. No official explanation has been released regarding the apparent discrepancy. Abdulaziz claimed the media reports citing the initial number were wrong, but did not elaborate.

Reuters quoted military spokesperson Major General Edward Buba as saying that the army had liberated 137 hostages – 76 females and 61 males. It apparently happened in the early hours of Sunday in the neighboring state of Zamfara.

Authorities earlier revealed that at least 100 of the abductees are aged 12 or younger.

The only official comment on the matter was provided on Sunday morning by the executive governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), he confirmed that “Kuriga school children have been released,” but did not give details on the operation or whether the military had engaged the kidnappers. He thanked President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as well as National Security Adviser Mal. Nuhu Ribadu, for the “successful outcome”. The governor added that the abductees had emerged from their ordeal unscathed.

“The Nigerian Army also deserves special commendation for showing that with courage, determination and commitment, criminal elements can be degraded and security restored in our communities,” the statement reads.

Last Wednesday, Reuters, citing a spokesman for the families of the hostages and a local councilor, reported that the kidnappers were demanding a 1 billion naira ($620,432) ransom. The criminals had reportedly threatened to kill the abductees if the money was not paid within 20 days.

Nigerian Information Minister Mohammed Idris said in a statement posted on X last week that the “president was… emphatic that no ransom will be paid.”

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