Kidnapped boys rescued in Nigeria
KATSINA, Nigeria – Parents sobbed, mobbed their children in hugs and even kissed the ground in gratitude on Friday as they reunited with scores of schoolboys who had been kidnapped a week earlier in northwest Nigeria.
Hundreds of adults jostled to find their offspring among the 344 dusty and dazed looking children who had arrived by bus in Katsina state on Friday morning. Those who succeeded cheered and grabbed their children, but scores more were still waiting by early evening.
“I feel like God has granted me paradise because I am so happy,” said an ebullient Hamza Kankara after she found her son, Lawal, in the crowd.
Another man knelt and kissed the ground, thanking God for the return of his young son, before clutching the boy and sobbing.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had come under mounting pressure to free the boys and deal with insecurity in the north.
One boy, who did not give his name, said their captors had told him to describe them as members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, although he suspected they were armed bandits.
“They beat us morning, every night. We suffered a lot. They only gave us food once a day and water twice a day,” he told Nigeria’s Arise television.
Gunmen on motorbikes raided the boys’ boarding school in the town of Kankara in Katsina state a week ago and marched hundreds of them into a vast forest that spans four states.
Authorities said security services rescued them on Thursday. The army said it had acted on “credible intelligence” and freed all 344 kidnapped boys.
Many details surrounding the incident remain unclear, including who was responsible, why they kidnapped the boys, whether ransom was paid and how the release was secured.
The abduction gripped a country already incensed by widespread insecurity, and evoked memories of Boko Haram’s 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok.
The boys’ abduction was particularly embarrassing for Buhari, who comes from Katsina state and has repeatedly said that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”.
Any Boko Haram involvement in this kidnapping would mark a geographical expansion in the militant group’s activities from its base in the northeast. (Reuters)