More than 300 now missing after yet another mass kidnapping in Nigeria - Today Headline

2024-03-13 15:19:31


Kaduna, Nigeria -- Gunmen have abducted dozens of people from a northwest Nigerian village, according to two local representatives and a United Nations source, just days after the kidnapping of more than 250 pupils from a school in the same state. A ransom demand emerged on Wednesday for the release of the larger group, taken last week, meanwhile.

CBS News correspondent Debora Patta says armed groups, known locally as bandits, have wreaked havoc for years in northern Nigeria, where they target villagers, motorists on highways and students in schools, hoping to barter for ransom payments. The latest attack took place around midnight, with gunmen firing sporadically to scare residents in Kaduna state's Kaiuri district.

It follows a similar pattern seen over the last couple weeks in remote communities across northern Nigeria, where there is little security and residents have been left feeling helpless.

The spate of recent abductions drew a warning from a regional security expert, who told CBS News' producer Sarah Carter over the weekend that Nigerian security forces appeared to have lost control of the country.

Tuesday's abductions in Kaiuri came as security forces searched for the pupils who were kidnapped last week from their school in Kuriga village, about 93 miles away in the same state. Before that, gunmen abducted another group of children early Saturday morning from a school in Sokoto, another state in northwest Nigeria.

Saturday's was a smaller kidnapping, with about 15 children said to be missing, but it was the third incident reported in just a week following reports that as many as 300 internally displaced people had gone missing near a camp in the northeast state of Borno. The security expert, David Otto, told CBS News many of those individuals likely were not abducted, but rather chose to leave the grim situation in their IDP camp and return to the bush and, in many cases, to relatives aligned with the terror group Boko Haram.

The mass kidnappings come almost 10 years after Boko Haram militants triggered a huge international outcry in 2014 by abducting more than 250 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno state. About 100 of them remain missing.

The series of large-scale abductions is challenging President Bola Ahmed Tinubu's government, which promised to tackle insecurity while also managing a cost-of-living crisis and bringing more investment to Africa's most populous nation.

Nigerian officials have not provided information on the Tuesday abductions in Kaiuru, but local councillor Abubakar Buda told Channels TV that gunmen stormed the village early in the morning, going house-to-house to kidnap residents and opening fire sporadically. Buda said a military intervention stopped more people from being kidnapped, according to Channels.

State lawmaker Usman Danlami Stingo told Arise News that 32 women and 29 men had been snatched.

A U.N. source, who was not authorized to speak publicly to the media, also told AFP that gunmen stormed the village early Tuesday morning and that "around 60" people were taken.

Former Nigerian Senator Shehu Sani told CBS News on Wednesday that the bandits would likely split up the people they seized to avoid drone detection while they negotiate with the government for ransom payments.

Nigeria's criminal gangs know the families themselves don't have money to pay for their loved ones' return, but they've made a lucrative business out of abducting people for ransom anyway.

The still-unidentified group of bandits behind the huge Kuriga kidnapping have demanded about $620,430 for their release, a spokesperson for the hostages' families and a local councillor told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

Reuters quoted the spokesperson, Jubril Aminu, who is a local community leader, as saying he'd received a call on from the kidnappers on Tuesday, demanding "a total of a 1 billion (naira) ransom" for all of the students and a few staff members taken from the adjoining elementary and high schools.

"They gave an ultimatum to pay the ransom within 20 days, effective from the date of the kidnap (March 7)," Aminu told Reuters, adding: "They said they will kill all the students and the staff if the ransom demand is not met."

Reuters said Idris Ibrahim, an elected member of the Kuriga Ward council, had confirmed the 1 billion naira ransom demand, and added that security forces were trying to track the kidnappers and taking "adequate measures" to secure the students' release.

Kidnapping is illegal in Nigeria and carries a possible life sentence, but so is paying kidnappers ransom -- officially, at least. Sani said the government would likely pay the ransom but not disclose any details of the negotiations or any payment made.

The gangs use ransom money to buy more weapons and expand their areas of operation.

Troops were still scouring forests in the northwest, meanwhile, in an effort to rescue the students kidnapped last week from Kuriga, but families have said they've been given little information since the abductions.

"We will continue praying for divine help in resolving this tragedy while the government takes up the issue with the kidnappers," relative Muhammad Kabir told AFP on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, inspector-general of the national police force Kayode Egbetokun vowed to deploy officers across the state to "allay fears and build confidence of Kaduna residents, especially those in rural communities."

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2024-03-13 News