Bandits release 30 persons in Katsina after striking deal with Masari

•We were in a Zamfara forest without shelter for 55 days, says mother of two
After a prisoner-swap deal between bandits and Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, 30 persons in the custody of the bandits have been released. The governor received the kidnapped victims on Saturday night.

Out of the 30 victims, eight are from Kankara local government area while 18 are from Shimfida in Jibiya local government area of the state. The victims were reported to have been brought to the state government house by one of the bandits, who disclosed that the victims were held at Damsadau forest in Zamfara State.

While receiving the victims, the governor said he would continue to persuade the bandits to release more until there was none in their custody. Masari also promised to take the victims to hospitals for check ups before they are reunited with their families.

Narrating her ordeal, one of the victims, Zinatu Sani, said she was in her home in Kankara local government area when bandits stormed her community and whisked her and her two children away. She added that she and other victims slept in an open space for 55 days despite the weather condition.She also said that the bandits had earlier demanded N20 million from her family, but later reduced it to N6 million. Despite the reduction, Sani said her family could not pay the ransom, adding that many victims are still in the forest.

Zinatu and her children were among the 30 kidnapped victims released by the bandits on Saturday night, following a dialogue between the state government and some leaders of the bandits. They were released to Governor Masari for onward handover to the leaders of their respective communities.

She said while in captivity, the bandits gave them measured amount of uncooked rice, and ordered them to boil same using only water and salt, adding that for 55 days, she and her children slept without a roof on their head during rainfall or sunshine.

She, however, called on the state government to make effort to persuade the bandits to release other victims held in captivity, saying she left many others in the forest still awaiting their fate.

One of the leaders of the repentant bandits told the governor that their abductor hails from Zurmi in neighbouring Zamfara State and he was in the habit of picking his victims from Katsina State.

Addressing the freed victims, Masari assured that government would continue to persuade the suspected bandits to release more victims until everyone under their captivity was set free.In the past few months, there has been an increase in the spate of kidnapping in Katsina, as bandits invade villages to kidnap and kill residents.