MINNA: Nearly 100 Nigerian school children kidnapped from an Islamic seminary three months ago were reunited with their parents on Friday after their gunmen captors freed them from forest hideouts.
The May 30 Tegina seminary abduction in northwest Niger State was one among the longest-running mass kidnappings at a Nigerian school since December when criminal gangs began to focus on students and pupils.
Dressed in fresh blue headscarves and tunics, the male and feminine students, some younger than 10 years old, were met by the local governor in Niger State before being reunited with their families.
“I have a toddler and that i am very happy. I give God all the glory,” said one father Fasilat Jimoh Danjuma. “Thank God they’re back hale and healthy and that we are happy.” principal Abubakar Alhassan said 92 children from the seminary were freed along side two Christian students who had been taken from a close-by village.
One of the Tegina children had died in captivity, he said.
Officials gave no details about how the youngsters were freed, but parents said during the captivity that they had sold houses and belongings to return up with ransom .
A go-between who delivered one payment was kidnapped himself for every week before being released with a requirement for extra money .
Originally school officials had said 136 children were kidnapped. But a later detailed ask parents showed 93 were taken, principal Alhassan said.
Earlier reports of other student deaths and escapes weren’t associated with the Tegina seminary abduction, he said.
During the May attack, around 200 motorcycle-riding gunmen from criminal gangs known locally as bandits stormed Tegina town in Niger state’s Rafi district, abducting dozens of the pupils.
Around 1,000 students are snatched since December after gangs began to hit schools. Most are released after negotiations, but scores are still being held in forest camps.
Earlier in the week , gunmen who kidnapped quite 100 students from a Baptist highschool in northwestern Kaduna State released 15 more of these hostages after collecting ransom.
Northwest and central Nigeria have long suffered from tensions and tit-for-tat armed raids between local farming communities and nomadic herders over pasture and water resources.
But violence has exploded recently with large, heavily armed criminal gangs involved in cattle rustling, looting villages and mass kidnapping. Most of them keep camps in dense forests across Kaduna, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara states.
President Muhammadu Buhari has come struggling over insecurity as troops battle militants within the northeast and bandit gangs within the northwest.