Thirty students who were kidnapped by criminal gangs locally known as bandits have been released four months after their abduction in northwest Nigeria.
More than 1,000 students have been snatched since December in Africa’s most populous nation by gunmen known locally as bandits.
“Today… thirty (30) students of the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri have arrived (in) Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital following their release,” local government spokesman Yahaya Sarki said in a statement.
It was unclear if a ransom was paid.
Gunmen attacked the Federal Government College in Kebbi on June 17, killing one security guard and whisking away with an undisclosed number of students. School authorities and parents were later contacted to pay ransoms for their release.
“Efforts are continuing to secure the release of the remaining (students),” Sarki said.
According to residents, the attackers shot and injured five people, including four students.
They also ransacked the hostels and vandalised student personal effects.
The country’s bandits have long targeted central and northwestern states, raiding villages, stealing cattle and kidnapping for ransom.
However, they have increasingly targeted schools, snatching students or schoolchildren and herding them into forest hideouts to negotiate ransom payments. Most students are freed after weeks or sometimes months in captivity.
Fear Of A New Jihadist Uprising
With no known ideological motivation and recent sophisticated bomb attacks on train tracks and jets, concerns have grown of jihadist inroads in the region.
Security forces are battling a 12-year-old jihadist insurgency in the northeast of the country.
Boko Haram and Islamic-State aligned group ISWAP have killed more than 40,000 people and forced two million from their homes.
Violence in the northwest and central states has escalated in recent months, stretching security forces thin.
Military operations against the gangs are underway in the northwest. The army recently said it had “neutralized” more than 300 bandits and rescued nearly 200 kidnap victims.
“The bandits are currently under desperate pressures because of the intense and sustained air and ground operations against them,” President Buhari said.
To hamper communication between the groups, the authorities have also cut phone networks in parts of the region.
Since January 2020, about 50,000 people fled from their homes in the northwest alone, according to the International Organization for Migration.
More than 80,000 more people have fled to neighbouring Niger over the past two years.