Bandits have released 15 more students kidnapped last month from a Baptist school in northwest Nigeria, officials said.
School administrator Reverend John Hayab told Reuters news agency on Sunday that parents had raised and paid an undisclosed ransom to free the students, who were among more than 100 taken on July 5 from the Bethel Baptist High School.
“The students are already being released and would be handed over to their parents any moment from now,” Hayab said. Hayab had previously said the abductors were seeking 1 million naira ($2,430) per student. So far, 56 of the kidnapped Bethel students have been released or escaped from their abductors.
“We still have 65 more of our students with the bandits and we are working to see they can be freed,” Hayab told the AFP news agency on Sunday.
Kaduna state’s commissioner for internal security, Samuel Aruwan, confirmed the release but did not immediately comment on the ransom payment.
The Bethel abduction was part of a string of kidnappings by armed gangs known locally as bandits who have long terrorised northwest and central Nigeria, looting, stealing cattle and kidnapping for ransom.
About 1,000 students have been kidnapped since December after gangs started to target schools and colleges. Most have been released after negotiations.
But many hostages remain captive, including more than 136 children abducted in June from an Islamic seminary in Tegina in central Niger State, four of whom have died in captivity.
On Friday, the gangs asked the seminary to send clothing for the schoolchildren who have been in the same clothes for months, according to one of the parents.
“They phoned the head of the school and told him to ask parents to send the children new clothes as the ones they have been wearing are in shreds,” Maryam Mohammed, whose seven children are among the hostages, told AFP.
Last week, nine pupils of an Islamic seminary were also seized by motorcycle-riding attackers in Katsina State, the second such incident in as many months.
President Muhammadu Buhari in February called on state governments to stop paying bandits, and Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai publicly refuses to pay. But desperate parents and communities often raise and pay ransoms themselves.