Dozens of students who were kidnapped by bandits from a school in Nigeria earlier this month have been reunited with their families, the region’s governor announced.
Zamfara State Gov. Bello Matawalle said in a statement on Monday that nearly 70 students were rescued with the aid of some bandits who sincerely regretted their wrongdoing, The Associated Press reported. The pupils were returned to their families late on Sept. 12.
A large group of bandits abducted the students from the village of Kaya in northwestern Zamfara State on Sept. 1, forcing authorities to close about 30 primary and secondary schools across the region.
Mohammed Shehu, a police spokesperson in the region, said in a statement at the time of the mass abduction that “armed bandits” stormed the Government Day Secondary School in the remote village, kidnapping a total of 73 children.
“The abduction followed the invasion of the school by a large number of armed bandits,” the police command said earlier this month.
“A search and rescue team has been deployed to work with the military to locate and rescue the abducted children … Security has also been beefed up at Kaya Village and environs to forestall further attacks on the communities,” it added.
Police confirmed that five of the 73 students were found safe one day after the attack after some bandits reportedly returned the abducted pupils, Nigerian news agency Punchng reported.
In reaction to the mass kidnapping, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement on Sept. 3 they “strongly condemn” yet another attack on an educational institution in Nigeria.
“We reiterate that attacks on schools and abduction of learners are a gross violation of children’s rights, and a horrific experience for children to go through—one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and overall well-being,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
“Schools must be safe; no child should experience any harm because they went to school, and no parent should come to grief for sending their children to learn,” he added.
According to a 2018 U.N. report, more than 1,000 children have been abducted in northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram since 2013. Boko Haram, which literally translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is a terrorist organization founded in 2002 and is based in northeastern Nigeria.
Some people fear that the bandits are linked in some way to the terrorist group in the northeast, who drew international condemnation in 2014 when they abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, northwestern Zamfara State, prompting the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
More than 100 of those girls are still missing, though two recently turned up years later, both of whom had had children with the militants they were forced to marry. Zamfara has been one of the states that are hit most severely in the abduction crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From NTD News