School officials say the students were released on Sunday, nearly three months after they were seized by the gunmen in the restive Kaduna state.

In this file image, students from Tegina's Salihu Tanko Islamic School who were abducted three months ago by gunmen, sit at the government house after their release, in Minna, Nigeria August 27, 2021.
In this file image, students from Tegina's Salihu Tanko Islamic School who were abducted three months ago by gunmen, sit at the government house after their release, in Minna, Nigeria August 27, 2021. (Reuters Archive)

Gunmen in Nigeria have freed 10 students abducted in the northwest Kaduna state after collecting a ransom, said a school official.

Assailants stormed Bethel Baptist High School on July 5 on the outskirts of Kaduna city, abducting 121 students who were sleeping in their dorms.

"The kidnappers released 10 more students today after we met their financial demand as with previous students they released," Joseph Hayab said on Sunday, without saying how much was paid.

Their release comes about a week after 10 of their other schoolmates were also released.

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Over 120 students still held hostage

Eleven of the 121 students of the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna are still being held, Hayab said, expressing frustration at the refusal of the gunmen to release all the students at once.

“If we have the power, we would have brought them,” he said when asked why the gunmen held back 11 students. “The bandits are the ones in control, we now have to play along softly and get our children back."

He was referring to the gunmen who have abducted at least 1,400 schoolchildren in Nigeria in the last year, according to the UN children’s agency.

“Our anger is not with the bandits as it is with the government, because we can’t have a government that is supposed to protect us and the bandits are having a field day. There is no day they have ever released one child for free,” the official added.

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Nigeria's security challenges

In the wake of increasing school attacks in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria, some governors have temporarily shut down schools and imposed phone blackouts in their states as they struggle to contain security challenges in Africa’s most populous state.

The first mass school abduction in Nigeria was carried out by the Boko Haram group in 2014. But the West African nation has witnessed more than 10 other attacks on schools in the last year, a sudden spike that authorities have blamed on outnumbered security operatives in remote communities where the affected schools are mostly located.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who rode to power in 2015 on a wave of goodwill after promising to end the country’s security challenges, has come under growing pressure over the security crisis, especially regarding the gunmen abducting schoolchildren and the Boko Haram extremists.

Security analysts have told the AP the gunmen and the militants might be working together.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies