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Nightmare Ends for Dozens of Nigerian Villagers Freed from Terrorist Captivity

Five Captives, Including Children, Starved to Death; 10 Remain Hostages

Map depicts town of Buda, 20 miles southeast of Kaduna Metro area. Map by Luka Binniyat.
Map depicts town of Buda, 20 miles southeast of Kaduna Metro area. Map by Luka Binniyat.

By Steven Kefas

(Kaduna) – It was an agonizing 3-week nightmare for the families of 67 villagers abducted by armed, radicalized Fulani bandit-terrorists in early March from the remote Buda community in northwestern Nigeria’s Kaduna state. But on Tuesday night, April 2, 2024 joyful pandemonium broke out as 52 of the hostages finally returned home after their families paid a ransom to the terrorists holding them captive.

“Words cannot express our relief to have our loved ones back safe after this harrowing ordeal in the hands of these evil men,” said Caleb Yakubu, whose wife and two young children were among the freed hostages.

 “We had resigned ourselves to the possibility of never seeing them alive again after hearing the militants had killed some of the others. Praise be to God they were released!” Jakubu said.

The mass abduction on March 12 was just the latest in a horrifying cycle of violence and kidnappings plaguing communities across Nigeria’s northwest where criminals speaking the Fulfulde language of the Fulani tribe have turned increasingly to mass kidnapping. The hostages, including dozens of children, were seized at gunpoint and marched into the outlaw camps controlled by the gangs deep in the region’s vast forests.

While overjoyed at their release, the traumatized villagers were still reeling from the grim news that at least five of their fellow hostages died in captivity under unexplained circumstances. Ten more villagers remain imprisoned by the militants, who have demanded another ransom for their release that the impoverished community members say they cannot afford to pay. 

“We’re giving thanks to God that over half of our people were freed, but our hearts are heavy knowing not everyone made it home,” said Rev. Joshua Awalu of the local Baptist church in Buda.

“Five families must now start the burial rites for their loved ones who perished, and we pray for the ability to raise whatever ransom is needed to see the rest of the hostages released soon. This is the cruel reality our people face – we must negotiate with terrorists,” Awalu said.

Several of the freed hostages who described to TruthNigeria the horrific circumstances during their captivity, with families forced to sleep under harsh conditions and denied food for days at a time as deliberate torture for ransom to be produced. At least three young children died of malnutrition and untreated illnesses. The militants starved the men to force their families to pay up quicker, some of the freed hostages said.

Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu condemned the abductions as “an act of cowardice and sheer cruelty by enemies of humanity.” But villagers say his government has done little to improve security in the long-ungoverned region, creating a void in which the militant gangs can operate with impunity. More than 5,000 Nigerians were kidnapped for ransom across the country last year alone.

Buda community leader Ezra Obadiah told TruthNigeria that despite their ordeal, the freed hostages consider themselves the fortunate ones. “There are thousands more innocent people in the militants’ camps who may never see freedom again. Our struggle has only just begun to win our lands back from the grip of these terrorists. But today we rejoice at this small victory.”

—Steven Kefas is a Kaduna -based conflict reporter for TruthNigeria.

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