LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen have released some of the children kidnapped from a school in northern Nigeria back in May, some of whom were as young as 5 years old, the school’s head teacher said late Thursday.
Abubakar Garba Alhassan told The Associated Press that the freed students were on their way to the state capital, Minna, but added he could not confirm the exact number freed.
Authorities have said that 136 children were abducted along with several teachers when gunmen on motorcycles attacked the Salihu Tanko Islamic School in Niger state. Other preschoolers were left behind as they could not keep pace when the gunmen hurriedly moved those abducted into the forest.
Alhassan did not provide details of their release, but parents of the students have over the past weeks struggled to raise ransoms demanded by their abductors. There was no immediate comment from police of the Niger governor’s office.
The release, though, came a day after local media quoted one parent as saying six of the children had died in captivity.
More than 1,000 students have been forcibly taken from their schools during those attacks, according to an AP tally of figures previously confirmed by the police. Although most of those kidnapped have been released, at least 200 are still held by their abductors.
The government has been unable to halt the spate of abductions for ransom. As a result, many schools have been forced to close due to the concerns about the kidnapping risk.
After one abduction at a university in Kaduna state earlier this year, gunmen demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom. They killed five other students to compel the students’ parents to raise the money, and later released 14 others.