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Around 300 schoolgirls released a week after being kidnapped by an armed group in Nigeria, govt denies paying ransom

Kidnapping for ransom have become an escalating problem in Nigeria with businessmen, officials and ordinary citizens being abducted from streets by kidnappers seeking ransom money.

A group of Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by armed men from a boarding school in the northwestern state of Zamfara last week were released on Tuesday. Around 279 girls were reported to have been abducted in a raid by hundreds of armed men in the Government Girls Secondary school in Jangebe village in Nigeria on Friday. The girls were kept in a government building before they were sent for medical check-up.

President Muhammad Buhari expressed pleasure on the release of girls

Muhammad Buhari, the President of Nigeria, tweeted to share the news of the release of the kidnapped girls yesterday. He said that he joined the families of the girls in welcoming them.

Nigerian Governor, Bello Matawalle, also took to Twitter to express joy over the release of the girls.

Sharing their ordeal of captivity, the girls told how they were taken to forest by their kidnappers and forced to walk on stones and thorns. They said that the kidnappers hit them with guns forcing them to keep walking, even the ones who were unwell.

It is not clear how the release of the girls was secured as the Nigerian government had reportedly refused to pay ransoms to the girls’ captors. According to reports, similar school abductions have taken place in Nigeria in recent months. The Nigerian government officials have been holding talks with the captors known as ‘bandits’. Previously, the government officials have reportedly entered into ‘peace agreements’ with bandits offering them money and amnesties. However, attacks including kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging by heavily armed criminal gangs in the north-west and central Nigeria have reportedly increased in recent years.

President Muhammad Buhari called for kidnappers to be brought to book

The approach of the state government of providing amnesty to bandits has not found favour with the central government. President Buhari had reportedly called for the captors to be brought to justice. He said that if ransoms were paid, this would encourage attacks in future.

Rising cases of school kidnappings in Nigeria

Criminal gangs have been targeting boarding schools in Northern Nigeria for mass kidnappings for ransom. The trend was reportedly started by jihadist group Boko Haram in 2014 when it kidnapped 270 girls from the town of Chibok. 100 out of these girls have not been found till date. Last week, some unidentified gunmen had killed a student in an attack on a boarding school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger. They kidnapped 42 people including 27 students. The hostages have not yet been released.

Last year in December, over 300 boys were kidnapped from a school in Kankara, located in President Buhari’s home state of Katsina, while the President was on a visit in the region. The boys were released later but the incident had sparked fear among people. Boko Haram had claimed the responsibility for the kidnapping.

Kidnapping for ransom have become an escalating problem in Nigeria with businessmen, officials and ordinary citizens being abducted from streets by kidnappers seeking ransom money.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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