Father of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls remains hopeful as Pope Francis prays for safe return

Balarabe Kagara, 54, was distraught but hopeful on Sunday as he looked at the photos of his 14-year-old daughters, two of the 317 girls kidnapped from their school in Nigeria’s northwest state of Zamfara.

An operation to rescue the girls had failed to pinpoint their location by late Friday, almost 24 hours after gunmen seized them in a raid on their school.
The ordered all boarding schools to close immediately after the kidnapping.

Kagara, a farmer who left the hinterlands for Zamfara in pursuit of better education for his children, said sending his children back to school would depend on whether there was improved security.

School kidnappings were first carried out by jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province, but the tactic has now been adopted by other militants whose agenda is unclear. They have become endemic around the increasingly lawless north, to the anguish of families and frustration of Nigeria’s government and armed forces. Friday’s was the third such incident since December.

The rise in abductions is fuelled in part by sizeable government payoffs in exchange for child hostages, catalyzing a broader breakdown of security in the north, officials have said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Gunmen in Nigeria on Saturday released 27 teenage boys who were kidnapped from their school on Feb. 17 in the north-central state of Niger, while security forces continued to search for the more than 300 schoolgirls.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis on Sunday prayed for the release of the kidnapped girls. "I join my voice to those of the bishops of Nigeria, to condemn the cowardly kidnapping of 317 girls taken away from their school," he said.

MORE: https://globalnews.ca/news/7666985/nigeria-schoolgirls-abducted-boys-freed/

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