53 seized on bus in Nigeria freed; 42 still missing in other case

ABUJA • Kidnappers have released 53 people they seized on a bus in Nigeria, local authorities said, while dozens of others taken from a school in a separate incident are still missing.

A gang last week seized 53 people, including 20 women and nine children, who were travelling on a state-owned bus in Kundu village in Niger State.

"I was delighted to receive the 53... bus passengers who were abducted by armed bandits a week ago," Niger state governor Abubakar Sani Bello said in a tweet late on Sunday.

It is not known if a ransom was paid but state representatives have previously said they would not pay any.

"We went through one week of dialogue, consultations, hard work and sleepless nights because we had to secure their release within the shortest possible time," the governor's spokesman Mary Noel-Berje said in a statement.

In a separate incident, 42 people, including 27 schoolboys, were abducted from a school last week, and are still missing. Ms Noel-Berje said the students of the Government Science College Kagara were still in the hands of their captors but added that everything is being done to ensure their release.

Meanwhile, a plane that was scheduled to take part in a surveillance mission in connection with a possible rescue operation crashed on Sunday near Nigeria's capital Abuja, killing seven people.

Gunmen last week killed 10 people and abducted at least 23 others in two separate attacks in the state.

Bandits are known to hide in camps in Rugu forest, which straddles four states. The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings.

But there is growing concern they are being infiltrated by extremists from the north-east who are waging a decade-old insurgency to establish an Islamic state.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline '53 seized on bus in Nigeria freed; 42 still missing in other case'. Subscribe