Dozens of abducted students freed in NW Nigeria

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Nigerian gunmen have freed dozens of schoolchildren kidnapped earlier this month in northwest Zamfara State, according to a local government source.

The release of the Kaya school students on Sunday came after the army began a crackdown on criminal gangs in the state and local authorities shut down telecoms in Zamfara to disrupt communications between armed groups.

More than 70 students and some teachers were snatched in Kaya on September 1 in the latest in a series of mass abductions at schools and colleges this year by heavily armed gunmen known locally as bandits.

“A total of 75 hostages taken from the Government Junior Secondary School Kaya were released on Sunday evening,” the local government source said. “They looked robust and unharmed.”

A video released by Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle’s office showed him greeting buses full of students in the night and asking them if they had been harmed.

According to security sources and the local source, their captors had released them in exchange for safe passage out of the forest as the army had surrounded their camp.

Criminal gangs have long troubled northwest and central Nigerian states, raiding and looting villages, stealing cattle and kidnapping for ransom.

But since December they have targeted schools, and more than 1,000 students have been kidnapped over this year in a string of raids.

Most of those students have been released after negotiations and some escaped, but dozens are still being held in forest hideouts by their bandit captors.