UGHELLI, Nigerai (AP) — Ten foreigners abducted by pirates last month were rescued in southern Nigeria, the army said.
The victims were released unharmed by Nigeria’s security forces in Rivers state, after Nigerian mediators paid a $300,000 ransom for their freedom, Col. Mohammed Yahaya told a press conference Saturday night.
The hostages were kidnapped on Feb. 7 off the Atlantic coast of the West African country, Gabon, and included six Chinese nationals, three Indonesians and a Gabonese, all thought to be fishermen, said Yahaya.
Kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative practice in Nigeria.
Last week hundreds of Nigerian girls were released in the country’s northwest, after being abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe. While officials did not say if a ransom had been paid, they said that “bandits” were behind the abduction, referring to the groups of armed men who operate in Zamfara state and kidnap for money.
After the abductions of the schoolgirls, Babagana Monguno, head of the government’s national security service, said on state television that banditry and kidnapping in the country were being sponsored by powerful non-state actors. He said the bandits are “causing problems for the innocent citizens of Zamfara state.” He said Nigeria’s intelligence and security agencies are investigating the bandits, who “will soon be arrested and brought to justice.” A curfew and a no-fly zone have been placed on the state, he said.
The girls’ abductions came on the heels of the release of 24 students, six staff and eight relatives on Feb. 17 from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state. In December, more than 300 schoolboys from a secondary school in Kankara, in northwestern Nigeria, were taken and later released. The government has said no ransom was paid for the students’ release.
Paying ransoms is dangerous as it fuels pirates and bandits and “plays directly into their hands and feeds their playbook,” said Laith Alkhouri, an intelligence specialist with the consultancy CTI-ME Intelligence Advisory.
“Governments must become proactive in preventing hostage-taking attacks, whether against vessels, journalists or activists, including intelligence sharing on flashpoint areas and increased maritime and border security measures,” he said.