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UPDATE 1-'You will die in the forest' - Nigerian schoolboys describe kidnap ordeal

GlobalDec 20, 2020 12:12
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* Schoolboys held for six days
* Boko Haram claimed responsibility, no confirmation
* Katsina governor says 344 boys were freed

(Adds attempted abduction of another group of children on
By Seun Sanni and Ismail Abba
KANKARA, Nigeria Dec 20 (Reuters) - Annas Shuaibu says he
awoke to the sound of gunshots fired by men who burst into his
boarding school in northwest Nigeria in a nighttime raid. He and
hundreds of other boys were rounded up and forcibly marched out
of the school and into a nearby forest.
After several hours trekking through woodland, the gunmen
ordered them to stop walking and warned them not to try to
flee, Shuaibu said. "They said even if you tried to escape, or
we allowed you to run, you will go nowhere. Rather, you will die
in the forest," he said.
Shuaibu, 16, was among 344 students who were kidnapped from
Government Science Secondary School, an all-boys boarding
school, on Dec. 11 in the town of Kankara, in Katsina state.
The boys were held for six days before security services
rescued them on Thursday from Rugu forest, a vast woodland area
that spans four of Nigeria's 36 states. The incident stoked anger about the insecurity that has
gripped much of the country, Africa's most populous, and evoked
memories of Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of more than 270
schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok.
Dressed in a turquoise kaftan and smiling broadly while
playing football with friends near his home in Kankara, Shuaibu
seemed carefree a day after being reunited with his family.
But the smile left his face when he described the conditions
in which he and the other boys were held.
"I was really scared because I didn't know where we were
going," he said, speaking softly and often looking at the ground
as he described walking through the forest and the boys being
beaten by their captors.
Shuaibu, who said he did not know how many people held them,
said the boys received little food, sometimes resorting to
eating leaves and drinking from pools of water in the forest.
Another freed student told Reuters, hours after the boys'
release on Friday, that the kidnappers had initially taken them
to a hiding place.
"But when they saw a jet fighter, they changed the location
and hid us in a different place. They gave us food, but it was
very little," said the student, who did not give his name.
On Friday, with their ordeal over, the boys were taken to
meet the governor and then President Muhammadu Buhari.
Many details surrounding the incident remain unclear,
including who was responsible, whether ransom was paid and how
the release was secured. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram
said it was responsible for the abductions but there was no
confirmation of this. WORRY
The joy of being free has not worn off for 14-year-old
Muhammed Bello.
"Now that I returned back home, I'll continue playing and do
what I like," he said, with a broad grin. "I'm very happy."
But the raid made parents fearful.
Shuaibu's father, who previously told Reuters his son was
13, said he would not send the boy back to the school unless
there was "proper security".
Attacks by armed gangs, widely known as bandits, are common
throughout northwestern Nigeria. The groups attack civilians,
stealing from them or kidnapping them for ransom.
A criminal gang attempted to abduct 80 schoolchildren and
take them into a forest in the Dandume area of Katsina state on
Saturday night, Katsina police said on Sunday.
All the children were rescued, along with four other people
who were also abducted, after police and a local vigilante group
exchanged gunfire with the gang, police spokesman Gambo Isah
said in a statement.
Following the rescue of the boys taken from Kankara, Katsina
Governor Aminu Bello Masari said security will be strengthened
at schools across the state.
When the Kankara children were reunited with their parents
on Friday weeping mothers and fathers hugged their boys, and
some parents knelt to kiss the ground in gratitude. Shuaibu recalled his fear of never seeing his family again.
"We feel extremely happy," he said. "Some of us didn't
expect that we would return."

Chaos and jubilation as freed Nigerian schoolboys reunite with
family is Boko Haram? ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

UPDATE 1-'You will die in the forest' - Nigerian schoolboys describe kidnap ordeal

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