Twenty-nine people abducted by militants two weeks ago as they were returning from a wedding in northwestern Nigeria have been released, relatives told AFP on Friday.
The victims, all mobile phone dealers, were returning to the Zamfara state capital, Gusau, after attending a colleague’s wedding when one of their cars broke down late on 11 June.
“Twenty-nine of our members, who were kidnapped two weeks ago, were released on Thursday after we paid 20 million naira ($50,000) to their kidnappers,” said Kabiru Garba Mukhtar, head of the Zamfara mobile trade union.
The day after the kidnapping, Mukhtar told AFP that 30 guests at the wedding had been kidnapped and another 20 managed to escape.
According to him, in fact, 29 people were abducted, and all of them were released. “Their release followed intense negotiations with the bandits, who initially demanded 145 million naira for the hostages,” said Mustafa Khalifa, another union official.
According to Khalifa, after their release, the victims were taken to a hospital to be treated for illnesses caused by the “harsh conditions” of their imprisonment.
Heavily armed criminal gangs, known locally as gangsters, are rampant in the northwest and central part of Nigeria, attacking villages and carrying out mass kidnappings for ransom, despite military operations to combat them.
On Wednesday, militants kidnapped 22 farmers from their fields on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja, the latest in a long string of kidnappings in Africa’s most populous country.
Gangs operate for financial reasons without any ideological overtones.
But possible alliances with jihadist groups that have been leading an insurgency in the northeast for 13 years are a concern.
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