By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Church officials hope more Christian youngsters will be released after suspected Islamic kidnappers in Nigeria freed five students and the matron of Bethel Baptist High School in Nigeria’s Kaduna State.
The October 8 release prompted the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), Israel Akanji, to express hope for four students who remain in captivity. “Glory is to God,” he said on behalf of NBC, an umbrella group of Baptist churches. “Five of our Bethel Baptist High School students and the matron … have just been released to us,” Akanij added in published remarks.
“We thank God and trust that the remaining four students will also be released. Thank you for your prayers and support,” he stressed in a statement distributed by Christian charity Barnabas Fund.
Some 120 students were abducted by gunmen who stormed into the Christian boarding school in north-western Nigeria in the early hours of July 5, said Christians familiar with the case
Most youngsters were freed in batches, beginning on 25 July with the release of 28 students, recalled Barnabas Fund, which supports the Christians. “Further releases followed this in August and September. Some students managed to escape their captors.”
It was the latest in a wave of mass abductions by predominant Islamic gangs, known locally as “bandits.” They operate from camps in the vast Rugu forest, which cuts across Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna states in Nigeria, as well as neighboring Niger.
Heavily armed criminal gangs in the northwest and central Nigeria often attack villages to loot, steal cattle and abduct people for ransom. Among them are also Islamist militants targeting Christians.
About 1,000 students and pupils have been abducted in Nigeria since December. Most have been released after negotiations with local officials, although some are still being held.
The kidnapping of Nigerian schoolchildren first made international headlines in 2014 when the Islamist group Boko Haram snatched nearly 300 schoolgirls from a rural school in Chibok in the north-eastern Borno state.
Recent abductions by gunmen have prompted six northern states to shut public schools to prevent such attacks.
Bethel Baptist high school is a co-educational college established by the Baptist church in 1991 at the village of Maramara in the Chikun district outside the state capital, Kaduna.
It was at least the fourth mass school kidnapping in Kaduna state since December.