Gunmen release hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls
Gunmen have freed hundreds of Nigerian girls who were abducted from a boarding school in the country’s northwest last week.
The girls, aged 10 and up, sat in a hall in a state government building before being taken for medical checks after their release.
Victims told of how their abductors had beaten and threatened to shoot them during a forced march into captivity on Friday.
Farida Lawali, 15, said she and the other girls had been taken to a forest by the kidnappers.
‘They carried the sick ones that cannot move. We were walking in the stones and thorns,’ she said.
‘They started hitting us with guns so that we could move.
‘While they were beating them with guns, some of them were crying and moving at the same time.’
Gunmen abducted 279 students from the Girls Science Secondary School (GSSS) in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, just after midnight on Friday.
Dr Bello Matawalle, the state’s governor, said on Tuesday the girls are ‘now safe’.
‘It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity,’ he said in a tweet. ‘This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.’
Some parents cried upon being reunited with their daughters.
President Muhammadu Buhari called for the captors to be brought to justice and said that if any ransoms were being paid, this would only make future attacks more likely.
He has imposed a no-flight zone in Zamfara and ordered a ‘massive’ deployment of military and intelligence assets to restore normalcy to Nigeria’s northwest,
Speaking after a security meeting, National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno said the Government ‘will not allow this country to drift into state failure’.
School kidnaps for ransom have become increasingly more common after the trend was started by the jihadist group Boko Haram. They abducted 270 schoolgirls in 2014, around 100 of whom have never been found.
Recent months have seen a sudden escalation of similar attacks by armed criminal gangs, including the abduction of 344 boys in December.
Friday’s raid was the second school abduction in little over a week in the northwest.
About 100 gunmen dressed in military uniforms carrying automatic weapons are thought to have taken the girls.
Lawani Adali, the security man on duty on the day, said policemen and vigilantes could not get inside because the gunmen had blocked all entrances. He said there was heavy firing as they were shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ – ‘God is great’.
Officials have previously alleged that the authorities have made payoffs in the past in exchange for child hostages, creating an incentive for abductions.
Several of those officials declined to comment on Tuesday on whether they believed a ransom had been paid in the latest incident.
Initial reports put the number kidnapped at 317. Zamfara government spokesman Sulaiman Tanau Anka said the total was 279, as some of the girls had escaped into the bush during the raid.
Lawal Abdullahi, whose seven daughters were among those kidnapped and freed, said the incident would not deter him from schooling his children. .
‘It’s a ploy to deny our girls … from getting the Western education in which we are far behind,’ he said. ‘We should not succumb to blackmail. My advice to government is that they should take immediate precautions to stop further abductions.’
The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF urged the Nigerian government to protect schools so children and parents will not be afraid.
As recently as Saturday, gunmen released 27 teenage boys who had been kidnapped from their school on Feb. 17 in Niger state.
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