Nigerian soldiers have found five of the dozens of students kidnapped last month from their college in the country’s northwest, state officials said on Monday.
Dozens of gunmen last month seized 39 students from their hostels in the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Afaka in Kaduna state, after a gunfight with soldiers.
It was the latest mass kidnapping in the country’s northwest, where criminal gangs have been increasingly abducting students for ransom, raiding villages, pillaging and stealing cattle.
“The Nigerian military has informed the Kaduna State Government that five of the many kidnapped students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna, were recovered this afternoon,” Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna state internal security commissioner, said in a statement.
Aruwan did not give details about how they were found but said they were undergoing medical checks at a military base.
The kidnap gang has previously released videos showing the distraught students being whipped and calling on the government to secure their release.
On Sunday, Aruwan had warned Kaduna authorities will prosecute anyone who negotiates with the kidnappers of the missing students as parents called for their rescue.
Aruwan ruled out negotiations and ransom payments to the kidnappers, warning that “any person who claims to do so in any capacity if found, will be prosecuted accordingly.”
He said the announcement was prompted by media reports that the state government had appointed “representatives to interface with bandits on its behalf”.
“The Kaduna State Government hereby clarifies firmly that such intermediaries have never been appointed.”
On Monday, parents of the kidnapped students, who have formed a support group, issued a statement condemning the state government’s “insensitivity” over the negotiations threat.
“For us, the statement is unfortunate and another demonstration of callousness on the part of the government,” Sam Kambai, the group’s head, said in the statement.
“We can never abandon our children and we will do whatever we can to see that we get them back.”
Kambai said the father of one of the kidnapped students died of shock after learning that his daughter was abducted. Local media have named the individual as Ibrahim Shamaki.
“We do not want to lose more parents… we will not resign to fate by doing nothing,” Kambai said.
On March 22 parents and colleagues of the kidnapped students held a protest outside the school where they blocked a highway and disrupted traffic for hours.
Heavily armed gangs have recently turned their focus to schools, where they kidnap students or schoolchildren for ransom — the Afaka mass abduction was at least the fourth such attack since December.
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