News Peace & Security

ISWAP releases humanitarian aid workers and civilians after months of captivity

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) extremist group has released 10 abductees, including seven humanitarian workers from international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), a pastor from Plateau State, and two civilians, after months of captivity.

Reports vary, with some saying the abductees were released on Monday and others on Tuesday.

The humanitarian aid workers were abducted from a facility in Dikwa in March. Support facilities, including a primary health care centre, and the United Nations humanitarian hub were stormed by insurgents during the attack.

Sources said the aid workers and the other abductees were undergoing medical support and psychological evaluation.

Among those released was Idris Alooma,  a senior protection assistant with the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), who was abducted in January on the Damaturu-Maiduguri road.

A Christian cleric, Reverend Polycarp Zango, a minister of the Church of Christ in Nations, who had been in captivity for eight months, was now free again. The Christainity Daily reported that no ransom was paid for the clergyman’s release.

Two others released were Barka Wasinda, a former employee of the Nigerian Ports Authority who was abducted in Garkida in Adamawa State on December 24, and Muazu Bawa, a resident of Damaturu, who worked for the Federal University Kashere in Gombe State.

Bawa and Alooma were abducted by insurgents, suspected of being members of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), commonly referred to as Boko Haram, on the Damaturu-Maiduguri road about five months ago. Both men tried to make a run for it, but they were caught by the insurgents and taken into captivity.

Abdullahi Bawa, confirmed his brother, Muazu, had been released. He said Muazu was on the way to attend the wedding of a friend in January when he and other travellers were abducted.

RNI reporter Rukaiya Ahmed Alibe tried to get an interview with Alooma, but she was told he was going to hospital for a check-up and possible therapy.

Alooma did, however, tell her that he was very grateful to have been released and described it as “a dream come true”.

Muhammad Karagama, a long-time friend, said Alooma had been held captive for five months. He said he was very happy and relieved to see his friend again.

Although the abductees were released by ISWAP, most had been abducted by the JAS. However, since the leader of JAS, Abubakar Shekau, allegedly killed himself in a fight against ISWAP earlier this month, sources said that organisation had now” taken over” the region and were “more open to negotiations”.

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