Why Nigerian Schoolchildren Keep Getting Kidnapped: A Brutal Business Model That Pays

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Why Nigerian Schoolchildren Keep Getting Kidnapped: A Brutal Business Model That Pays

KADUNA, Nigeria—The kidnap for ransom business is booming across northern Nigeria, and schoolchildren are its hottest commodity.

Just before midnight on March 11 gunmen barged into a school around 300 yards from a military training college in Kaduna state and seized dozens of students from their dormitories. It took less than 12 hours for the captors to issue a now familiar demand, through a grainy video posted on Facebook.

“They want 500 million Naira,” said one of the terrified hostages from the Federal College of Forestry, sitting shirtless in a forest clearing, a sum equal to around $1 million. Masked men wielding Kalashnikovs paced among the 39 students—mostly young women—then began to hit them with bullwhips.

“Our life is in danger,” a woman screamed. “Just give them what they want.”

On March 13, the Nigerian army foiled an attempt to kidnap 300 more students at a boarding school less than 50 miles away. The following day, children were among a group of 11 people abducted from the town of Suleja, in Nigeria’s Niger state.

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