Nigerian gunmen release 15 other kidnapped Baptist students
Gunmen who kidnapped more than 100 students from a high school in northwest Nigeria freed 15 more hostages after collecting a ransom, a family representative said on Sunday.
Dozens of attackers stormed Bethel Baptist High School on July 5 on the outskirts of Kaduna state capital Kaduna, kidnapping 121 students who were sleeping in their dormitories.
Bethel’s kidnapping was part of a series of kidnappings by armed gangs known locally as bandits who have long terrorized northwest and central Nigeria, looting, stealing cattle and kidnapping for ransom.
About 1,000 students have been kidnapped since December after gangs started targeting schools and colleges. Most were released after negotiations, but dozens are still being held in logging camps.
“Fifteen students were released last night after a ransom was paid,” Reverend Joseph Hayab, head of the local church and representative of parents at Bethel, told AFP.
Hayab declined to say how much was paid as local authorities say they are opposed to the ransoms and have threatened to jail those who make the payments.
So far, 56 of the kidnapped Bethel students have either been released or escaped from their captors.
“We still have 65 of our more students with the bandits and we are working so that they can be freed,” said Hayab.
– Death in captivity –
On Wednesday, nine students at an Islamic seminary were arrested by motorcycle attackers in Katsina state, the second such incident in as many months.
Many hostages remain captive, including more than 136 children abducted in June from an Islamic seminary in Tegina, central Niger state, four of whom died in captivity.
On Friday, the gangs asked the seminary to send clothes for school children who have been wearing the same clothes for months, according to one of the parents.
“They called the principal of the school and told him to ask parents to send new clothes to the children because the one they were wearing was in tatters,” Maryam Mohammed, whose seven children told AFP. are among the hostages.
The violence in northwest and central Nigeria is rooted in clashes between nomadic herders and local farmers over land and water. But the violence has turned into widespread tit-for-tat attacks, mass kidnappings and banditry.
The kidnapper gangs are motivated by financial motives, although there are signs of growing links between them and Islamist militants fighting a 12-year insurgency in the northeast of the country. This conflict has killed around 40,000 people and displaced more than two million of their homes.
Nigerian jihadists have also carried out mass kidnappings in the past, including the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls from a remote village of Chibok in 2014. Some of these girls are still in captivity.
abu / pma / lc