Troops from Niger have freed 11 villagers, four of them children, who had been seized by Boko Haram jihadists and taken across the border into Nigeria, local officials said Monday.
“The hostages were freed by our troops on the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, near a Boko Haram base,” Yahaya Godi, secretary of the Diffa region governorate in southeast Niger, told AFP.
“There are 11 people, including three women and four children, two of them babies, who were seized by the Boko Haram terrorist group.”
The abductions took place on August 11 and 12 in two villages in Gueskerou, a district on the Niger side of Lake Chad.
The marshy shoreline of the lake, shared by Chad, Niger and Nigeria, has become a hunting ground for cross-border jihadists, who attack remote communities and often carry out ransom kidnappings.
According to Niger’s state TV, the troops tracked the kidnappers and freed the hostages just as their families were about to pay a ransom of two million CFA francs ($3,600).
It showed guns and ammunition that had been recovered from the abductors.
“The army has delivered a heavy blow to the enemy,” said Godi, who welcomed the group of hostages after their ordeal.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Niger is facing jihadist attacks in the west from Mali and Burkina Faso, and in the southeast by Boko Haram and a splinter group called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The Diffa region alone hosts around 300,000 people who have fled their homes, according to UN figures.