Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have been released and are 'safe'

March 02, 2021

A group of girls who were abducted from a boarding school in Nigeria have been released and are "safe", reports say.

Gunmen abducted 279 students from the Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, on Friday.

But Dr Bello Matawalle, the state's governor, says the girls are "now safe".

The men who ransacked the school had also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from intervening.

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".

Sky News' Africa correspondent John Sparks said about 100 gunmen dressed in military uniforms carrying automatic weapons had taken the girls.

Around 50 had managed to escape by hiding under beds and in the toilets, he added.

Several large groups of armed men operate in Zamfara state, described by the government as bandits, and are known to kidnap for money and for the release of their members from jail.

The government has repeatedly denied paying ransoms.

But President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement on Friday in which he urged state governments "to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously".

Sparks said the latest incident prompted more questions on the ransom debate.

"Was money paid? This is becoming a growth industry in Nigeria.

"It's happening frequently: Criminal gangs or bandits taking advantage of the precarious security situation in the north and central areas."

Such kidnappings in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram, and later its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province, but the tactic has now been adopted by other criminal gangs.

The raid in Zamfara state was the second such kidnapping in little over a week in the northwest, a region increasingly targeted by criminal gangs.

On Saturday, gunmen released 27 teenage boys who were kidnapped from their school on 17 February in the north-central state of Niger.

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