Nigeria arrests members of kidnapping gang

Three people suspected of abducting more than 100 students from a Christian school in northwestern Nigeria two months ago have been arrested, police said Thursday night.

On July 5, gunmen invaded the Bethel Baptist Secondary School on the outskirts of Kaduna and abducted 121 students who were sleeping in their rooms.

“Three of the key suspects involved in the kidnapping of the Bethel Baptist High School students have been arrested,” a spokesman for the Nigerian police, Frank Mba, said in a statement.

He said one of the three suspects “was in charge of the surveillance of the school and consulted with other members of his gang before attacking and kidnapping the students. An AK47 assault rifle was found in each of the three suspects’ homes, he added, noting that the investigation was still ongoing.

Since July 5, 100 students have been released or have managed to escape, while 21 remain in the hands of their captors.

This mass kidnapping was part of a series of kidnappings carried out for months by armed criminal groups operating in northwestern and central Nigeria.

These groups, which carry out looting, attacks and kidnappings, are primarily motivated by greed. They target schoolchildren and students for ransom and are not ideologically motivated, unlike the jihadist groups operating in Nigeria.

About 1,000 schoolchildren and students have been abducted since December, when the gangs began attacking schools. Most have been released after negotiations, but hundreds remain trapped in camps hidden in forests.

Last month, nearly 100 students from a private Muslim school who were abducted in western Nigeria in May were reunited with their parents.

Boko Haram Islamists were the first to engage in school abductions, with the abduction of more than 200 girls from their dormitory in Chibok in 2014, sparking global public outrage.

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