- Edward Kallon, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, said he was "deeply relieved" some of the civilians were released.
- “Despite this encouraging news, I am concerned about the fate of other civilians abducted in this incident.”
- Armed groups have waged an uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed at least 35,000 people since 2009, and left 7.1 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
Three aid workers and other civilians who had been held hostage by an armed group have been released, a United Nations official has said. They had been held hostage in northeast Nigeria since late December. The hostages were kidnapped on December 22 by fighters posing as soldiers who stopped a convoy of commercial vehicles travelling towards the city of Maiduguri, state capital of the northeast state of Borno.
“I am deeply relieved that some civilians, including three aid workers, who were abducted by non-state armed groups along the Monguno-Maiduguri road on 22 December, 2019 have been released yesterday and are now safe,” Edward Kallon, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, said in a statement on Thursday. Kallon said he was concerned about the “increasingly insecure environment that humanitarians are working in.” He said a total of 12 aid workers lost their lives in 2019, more than twice the 2018 total, making it one of the most dangerous years for humanitarian actors in Nigeria.
“Despite this encouraging news, I am concerned about the fate of other civilians abducted in this incident,” Kallon said in a statement Thursday. “I also remain gravely concerned for the lives of our (Action Contre la Faim) colleague Grace Taku, abducted near Damasak in July 2019, and Alice Loksha, a nurse and a mother, abducted during an attack in Rann in March 2018. Both are still held captive by non-state armed groups“. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners call for their immediate and safe release, he added.
Asabe Musa, a hygiene specialist with Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), a French NGO, was among those freed. Musa told AFP news agency that those captured were another colleague from ALIMA, a Red Cross worker, a member of NGO solidarity and one person from the International Office for Migration.
The UN did not state whether those behind the abduction were associated with Boko Haram, or a faction that broke away in 2016 and pledges allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group. Armed groups have waged an uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed at least 35,000 people since 2009, and left 7.1 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Boko Haram, a group seeking a separate state in northeast Nigeria adhering to a strict interpretation of Islamic laws, began the unrest.
The Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) has been the dominant and powerful armed group in Nigeria in the last two years. In December last year, ISWAP brutally executed eleven Christian captives it had previously kidnapped in Borno State. A video released by the group showed the one hostage being shot while the rest were beheaded. The militant group has previously killed hostages including members of the security forces and aid workers but this was the largest group to be executed at once. ISWAP has used hostage-taking as a bargaining power either for ransom or in exchange of an arrested member although the authorities have never confirmed carrying out a prisoner swap.