School children abducted in Nigeria’s Niger state released, governor says

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Gunmen in Nigeria on Saturday released 42 people, including 27 students, who were kidnapped from a boarding school last week in the north-central state of Niger, the state’s governor said.

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Their release comes just a day after a separate raid on a school in Nigeria’s Zamfara state where gunmen seized more than 300 girls.

Kidnappings for ransom by armed groups, many of whom carry guns and ride motorcycles, are common across many northern Nigerian states.

Last week, twenty-seven students, three staff and 12 members of their families were abducted by an armed gang who stormed the Government Science secondary school in the Kagara district of Niger state at around 2am, overwhelming the school’s security detail. One boy was killed during the raid.

Freed Nigerian schoolboys walk after they were rescued by security forces in Katsina, Nigeria on December 18, 2020. (Reuters)
Freed Nigerian schoolboys walk after they were rescued by security forces in Katsina, Nigeria on December 18, 2020. (Reuters)

“The Abducted Students, Staff and Relatives of Government Science Collage Kagara have regained their freedom and have been received by the Niger State Government,” Governor Abubakar Sani Bello said in a tweet.

The recent attacks have raised concern about rising violence by armed gangs and extremist insurgents. Extremist group Boko Haram carries out abductions in Nigeria’s turbulent northeast, as does a branch of ISIS.

The unrest has become a political problem for President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general and former military ruler who has faced mounting criticism in recent months over high profile attacks by the gangs known locally as “bandits”.

Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs this month amid worsening violence in Nigeria.

Violence and insecurity have compounded the economic challenges faced by citizens in Africa’s most populous country and top oil exporter, which is struggling to cope with a fall in revenues due to a slump in crude prices in addition to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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