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Nigerian bandits abduct negotiator over ransom to free students

Armed bandits in Nigeria have seized a negotiator who had been sent to pay ransom money to secure the release of 136 students kidnapped two months ago from an Islamic school in the north of the African nation, the school and parents said.

Abubakar Alhassan, director of the Islamic school, said the school and parents have been negotiating with the kidnappers who demanded 30 million naira ($72,993) to release the students from the school in Nigeria’s Niger state.

Alhassan said the school had contributed to a ransom and some parents sold property to raise cash but they said the negotiator, a 60-year-old man from the community, was taken because kidnappers said the ransom he brought was short.

Armed groups have been blamed for a series of raids on schools and universities in northern Nigeria in recent months, abducting more than 1,000 students for ransom since December.

The government has said it would not pay any ransom. President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered security forces to search for the students.

“We sold most of our properties and used our savings to see that our children are returned. Unfortunately after all the effort, they said that we did not bring the money as they required,” said Ibrahim Salihu, father of two of the children abducted by the school in Niger state.

“We are now left with nothing and our children are still held captive,” he said.

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The police did not respond to a request for comment.

  • The northern Nigerian state of Kaduna has suspended all schooling due to insecurity, state officials have announced, amid a spate of student kidnappings in the region that has rocked Africa’s most populous country.

“We have asked students to stay away for three weeks, after which in the third week we will review the situation and get across to the public and the students,” said Mohammed Makarfi, Kaduna state’s commissioner of education, by phone.

The state had already imposed a three-week suspension on schooling that expired on Sunday, said another official who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

“The directive of the governor to extend the suspension of resumption till further notice is to ensure the safety of students in all schools,” said the official.

On Sunday, kidnappers who raided a boarding school earlier this month released 28 children, though another 81 remain in captivity, said a pastor involved in the negotiations.

The attack on the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna was the 10th mass school kidnapping since December in northwest Nigeria, which authorities have attributed to criminal gangs seeking ransom payments.

Kidnappings in Nigeria began with abductions by jihadist group Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province. Now criminal gangs have used the tactic.

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Kidnappers released 28 students seized from another school on Sunday, but kept hold of 81 other students.

By The African Mirror