Nigeria Eight kidnapped students escape their captors

Nigeria: Eight kidnapped students escape their captors

Eight secondary school students kidnapped in north-western Nigeria have escaped their kidnappers on their way to school two weeks after they were abducted, local authorities said on Wednesday.

The students were kidnapped on April 3, said Samuel Aruwan, commissioner of homeland security in Kaduna state, an area where kidnapping for ransom is common and resumed after a lull during elections in February and March. They are eight in number and not ten as mentioned at the time, he said.

Before the parliamentary elections at the end of February, the government put new banknotes into circulation and declared that it wanted to reduce the informal economy, corruption and ransom payments to kidnappers.

But in late March, it put old banknotes back into circulation after a major union threatened to strike, denouncing the shortage of banknotes.

“The eight kidnapped public secondary school students … fled the terrorists’ hideout in a ‘dense forest’ and walked for several days before being rescued,” Aruwan said in a statement.

They were examined by doctors before being reunited with their families, he added, adding that the army was combing the forest to find the kidnappers.

Also in Kaduna state, 33 people were killed last weekend when gunmen attacked a village in Zangon Kataf district, opening fire on fleeing residents and burning houses, a government official said.

Kaduna is one of several states in northwest and central Nigeria that are being terrorized by armed gangs – known locally as “bandits” – who are attacking villages, killing residents and kidnapping for ransom. Hundreds of students have been kidnapped in these regions in recent years.

The hostages, also humble travelers who are kidnapped on the road, are usually released by their relatives after a ransom has been paid.

But those whose ransom is not paid are killed and their bodies thrown into a vast forest used as a hideout by the bandits, stretching across the states of Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger.

Authorities and analysts are concerned about growing alliances between bandits, motivated only by the lure of profit, and jihadists, who have been leading an armed insurgency in the north-east of the country for 14 years.

Last year, powerful Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai said jihadist groups Ansaru and Boko Haram were setting up camps in his state’s Birnin Gwari district, several hundred kilometers from their traditional stronghold in the northeast.

Widespread insecurity in Nigeria is one of the biggest challenges for President Bola Tinubu, the ruling APC party’s candidate who was elected in February in a poll marred by technical problems and denounced as rigged by the opposition.