Police in Nigeria say they have arrested three men in connection with the July abduction of more than 100 students in northern Kaduna state. Gunmen took the students from Bethel Baptist High School, part of a wave of kidnappings for ransom that have shaken communities across the north.
Nigerian national police spokesperson Frank Mba announced the arrests on Thursday as the three suspects were paraded before reporters in the capital, Abuja.
Mba didn’t disclose where the men were picked up, but said they are part of a larger 25-member gang that seized the 121 students on July 5.
About 100 of the students have since been freed, and police say operatives of Nigeria’s special tactical squad are in pursuit of other members of the gang.
One of the kidnappers told reporters he was paid about $40 for the operation. But Darlington Abdullahi, a security analyst and retired air force officer, says the kidnappings are far more lucrative.
“They’re forced to kidnap for survival, obtain ransoms,” he said. “Strangely enough, they have found out that they even make more money from the kidnapping.”
For the past year, armed gangs have been seizing students from schools in northwest and central Nigeria and squeezing thousands of dollars in ransom from their families.
About 1,200 students have been taken since December of last year. The mass kidnappings have led to sudden school closures across the affected states, mostly Kaduna, Niger, and Zamfara.
This month, Kaduna state authorities ordered the reopening of schools after shutting down for two months. Authorities promised more security at schools to prevent further attacks.But Abdullahi says he still has concerns.
“The kidnapping in parts of the north central, northwest and so on will continue until we’re able to adequately take care of the border areas through which they come in. … Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, that is the ones that come in through Benin republic,” he said.
Last month, bandits released more than 90 pupils abducted from an Islamic seminary in central Niger state after three months in captivity. The pupils are the youngest to be kidnapped by bandits in Nigeria.