MINNA, Nigeria (AP) — Overjoyed families awaited reunions Friday with 90 young children who had been held captive by gunmen for three months in northern Nigeria as the state’s governor vowed to pursue the kidnappers.
One of the children taken in May died during the ordeal and four others are receiving medical treatment, officials told reporters. The children — some as young as 5 — have been transported to Minna, the capital of Niger state.
“This has affected the morale and confidence of the people and has even made parents think twice before they send their children to school,” Niger state Gov. Abubakar Sani Bello said of the children’s abduction. “We will do whatever it takes to bring (the kidnappers) to justice.”
Gunmen on motorcycles had attacked the Salihu Tanko Islamic School in Niger state in late May. Other preschoolers were left behind as they could not keep pace when the gunmen hurriedly moved those abducted into the forest.
Authorities initially said that 136 students had been taken but revised that figure to 91, including the pupil who died in captivity.
Head teacher Abubakar Garba Alhassan did not provide details of their release, but parents of the students have over the past weeks struggled to raise the ransoms demanded by their abductors.
More than 1,000 students have been forcibly taken from their schools in a series of school abductions this year, according to an AP tally of figures previously confirmed by the police. Although most of those kidnapped have been released, at least 200 are still held by their abductors.
Nigeria’s government has been unable to halt the spate of abductions for ransom. As a result, many schools have been forced to close because of the kidnapping risk.
After one abduction at a university in Kaduna state earlier this year, gunmen demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom. They killed five other students to compel the students’ parents to raise the money and later released 14 others.