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Nigerian police rescue 5 kidnapped sisters in rare outcome after public outrage

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Nigerian police and armed forces have secured the release of five sisters who were taken hostage earlier this month and held for ransom alongside their father, uncle and another sister. Their father was released as well, though the sixth sister and their uncle were ultimately murdered by the kidnappers. The five sisters' story gripped the country, as NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu reports from Lagos.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Let's begin with the disturbing news about rising insecurity in...

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: The kidnap of six sisters has dominated news bulletins in Nigeria for weeks. It's ignited outrage at their plight and an epidemic of abductions across the country in recent years. One of the sisters, 21-year-old Nabeeha, was killed by the kidnappers, who demanded almost $70,000. Then on Sunday, police announced that five of the sisters were rescued by security forces and reunited with the Al-Kadriyar family - a rare end to a brutal episode. But for thousands of victims kidnapped in recent years, it often ends differently.

CONFIDENCE ISAIAH-MACHARRY: The payment of ransom no longer guarantees freedom.

AKINWOTU: Confidence Isaiah-MacHarry is a security analyst at a firm called SBM. He says that the kidnap-for-ransom industry has ballooned in Nigeria and that kidnappers have become more and more brazen.

ISAIAH-MACHARRY: In the past, it used to be 80- to 90% chance that once you pay ransom, you're let go. Now it's as low as 50- to 60%.

AKINWOTU: In some instances, kidnappers even abduct the people who deliver the ransoms or refuse to free victims even when money exchanges hands. The kidnap of the sisters, who range from teenagers to young women in their 20s, sparked an online crowdfund campaign as the situation grew desperate.

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MOHAMMED BADARU ABUBAKAR: There is a law that prevent payment of ransom.

AKINWOTU: But Nigerian defense minister, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, denounced it.

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ABUBAKAR: So it is very sad for people to go over the internet, radio asking for donation to pay ransom. This will only worsen the situation.

AKINWOTU: Authorities say that victims should report abductions to the police, but victims rarely do, amid a lack of faith that security forces will intervene. The freedom of the five sisters is a rare case where they have. Emmanuel Akinwotu, NPR News, Lagos. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.