By ZENIT Staff

The 344 students kidnapped from the Kankara public secondary school in Katsina state, northwestern Nigeria, attacked on the night of December 11-12, have been released, reported Fides News Agency. This was announced by the local authorities, who deny having paid any ransom.

The jihadist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping through an unverified video and audio message, but Katsina state authorities say the mass kidnapping is the work of local criminal groups.

Katsina State is the home state of President Buhari, whose administration is struggling to contain widespread insecurity in parts of northern and central Nigeria. In recent years, Boko Haram’s decades-long conflict with the army has been concentrated in the north-eastern part, involving neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. If the insurgents were involved in the assault on Kankara, it could represent an expansion of the areas threatened by the group.
The insecurity of the country, linked to the exploitation of religion for political purposes, is stigmatized by Mgr. Obiora Ike, Director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice, Peace, and Caritas (CIDJAP), in a statement sent to Fides. “More than 100,000 people have been killed in ten years due to religiously motivated killings, the highest in any country in the world at this time”, denounces Mgr. Obiora Ike. “Nigeria is not at war with another country and has never been. However, the northern parts of the country, with the Boko Haram terrorist organization, the Fulani herdsmen, now called “bandits,” and some Muslim religious fanatics, have followed the paths of the politicians who in the year 2000 tried to undermine democracy in Nigeria by forcefully, and contrary to the federal constitution, pushing through the Sharia law upon 12 States of the country”.

Archbishop Ike addresses “an urgent and crucial call to the international community to focus on Nigeria, where now ethnic intolerance, terrorism, and State-sponsored religious fundamentalism are growing before it is too late. The migration and security issues and its conflagration for the globe would be too much to handle aside from the humanitarian crisis in the event of a full-blown confrontation. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria, moderate Muslims, the Vatican, and some enlightened voices continue to call for mutual understanding, peace, stability, and progress in Africa’s largest economy and most populated country”.

“Unfortunately, Christians and many others in Nigeria feel the lack of interest from the West in the Nigerian conflict which, if left unchecked, could have catastrophic consequences”, concludes the Nigerian prelate.

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