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Kuriga: Nigerians celebrate return of kidnapped students



Abducted Kuriga students reunite with their family after they were secured by the Nigerian Army

The entire town of Kuriga ran towards the convoy of buses, yelling “Our children are back!” and “Alhamdulillah,” which means “Thank you, God,” to welcome home more than 100 students and staff kidnapped earlier this month in Kaduna State, northwest Nigeria.

The army claimed on Sunday that it had rescued 137 captives – 76 female and 61 male – in the nearby state of Zamfara, only days before a deadline to pay a ransom of 1 billion naira ($767,000) for their release.

The Kuriga kids recalled being marched through the jungle for over two weeks in an attempt to evade authorities, sleeping under trees, being fed half-cooked rice, and being given only filthy water to drink.

“Even the bandits were hungry,” said Amina Alhassan, one of the kidnapped students, talking through the window of a bus as it pulled into Kuriga.

“We used our dirty headscarves as sanitary pads…we were crying and praying every day.”

Tanko Musa, one of the freed students, said the kidnappers told them the government had paid the ransom and they could be released as a result.

“We don’t know how much was paid, but they said the government has paid them,” he said.

Earlier this week, Information Minister Mohammed Idris said no ransom had been paid.

One security source said he saw 14 black bags, which he assumed contained the ransom money, being delivered to an area in Zamfara state where the students were held after their March 7 abduction.

Relieved Kuriga parents crowded around the buses to catch a glimpse of the children they thought they had lost.

“We had no hope of seeing our children again,” said Yunusa Musa, whose two children, Hafsatu, 19, and Zaituna, 16, were among those kidnapped.

Yunusa called on the Nigerian government to deploy soldiers in the town and its surroundings to allow villagers to farm the land they had to abandon because of rampant insecurity.