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Seminary children freed after short abduction: Nigerian police

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows police on patrol in Nigeria.

Vigilantes have rescued more than 80 schoolchildren kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Katsina following a fierce gunfight.

Katsina State police spokesman Gambo Isah said on Sunday the students had been kidnapped in Dandume on Saturday night on their way home in Mahuta village.

The children were from various Islamic seminaries and had been traveling in the company of their teachers when they were kidnapped, one of the teachers said.

Abdullahi Sada, leader of a local vigilante group, said residents and vigilante groups went after the kidnappers, who have been identified as ethnic Fulani herder.

“We laid siege on the area we knew they were holding the children and also took some Fulani settlements in the area hostage, warning that if anything happened to our children no Fulani would live in the area henceforth.”

“They released 60 children around 3:00 am and this morning they called and said they had released the remaining 53 who are now being ferried from the bush,” he said.

The kidnapping took place less than two days after the release of 344 schoolboys abducted from the Kankara Government Science Secondary School on December 11.

The abduction was initially blamed on criminal gangs who have terrorized the region for years. But on December 15, Nigeria’s homegrown Takfiri terrorist group of Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly three million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram reign of terror, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The violence has also spilled over into the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

Northwestern Nigeria has also been wracked by years of violence involving clashes between rival communities over land, attacks by heavily-armed criminal gangs and reprisal killings by vigilante groups.

Cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom have also flourished in the security vacuum.

The Nigerian government has so far failed in settling the unrest.

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