Kidnappers have released 53 people including women and children they arrested on a bus in Nigeria, local authorities said, while dozens of others taken from a school in a separate incident are still missing.
Criminal gangs locally known as “bandits” in northwestern and central Nigeria have increased attacks in recent years, kidnapping, rape and looting. Last week, a gang arrested 53 people, including 20 women and nine children, traveling on a state bus in the village of Kundu in the Niger state.
“I was very pleased to receive the 53 … bus passengers abducted by armed bandits a week ago,” Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello said in a tweet late Sunday.
It is unknown if a ransom was paid, but government officials have previously said they would not pay anything.
“We went through a week of dialogue, consultation, hard work and sleepless nights because we had to secure their release in the shortest possible time,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Mary Noel-Berje, said in a statement.
The freed bus passengers received medical check-ups before being reunited with their families, she added. In a separate incident, 42 people, including 27 schoolboys, were abducted from a school last week and are still missing.
“The students from Government Science College Kagara are still in the hands of their prisoners but that everything is being done to ensure their release,” said Noel-Berje.
A plan planned to take part in a surveillance mission in connection with a possible rescue operation crashed on Sunday near the Nigerian capital Abuja and killed seven people. Shooters killed ten people last week and abducted at least 23 others in two separate attacks in the state.
“We are witnessing these attacks now, almost daily, and it is worrying,” Noel-Berje said at the time. Bandits are known for hiding in camps in the Rugu forest, which stretches across the Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states. Despite the deployment of troops, deadly attacks remain.
The latest attacks have raised concerns about increased violence by armed gangs who are criticizing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of national security. In January, the president appointed a new military high command.
Violence and insecurity have exacerbated the economic challenges facing the citizens of Africa’s most populous country, who are struggling to cope with declining revenues due to a fall in oil prices on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.