Nigerian police liberated Wednesday some 500 men and boys aged from seven to 40 from an Islamic school in the northern state of Katsina. The victims had been shackled, sexually assaulted and beaten so hard, some of them could not even walk, according to the authorities.
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Mounted by Katsina police and federal police from the country’s capital Abuja, the operation rescued some 500 students, and a source said not all of them had been mistreated.
One building within the school was well-kept and held 300 pupils who were not regularly mistreated. But about 200 others detained at a site next door were regularly abused.
“The second camp is the dangerous place,” a police source said, adding "children were molested there.”
The source explained the most unruly students and some newcomers were placed in the second building while students at the first one were sometimes taken to it for abuse.
Two sources at the scene told Reuters that the owner of the school and five of his staff have been arrested.
The police raid was the third of its kind in less than a month, bringing the number of victims freed from abusive conditions to more than 1,000 for October alone.
Another purported Islamic school where the captives endured the same horrendous and inhumane conditions were raided in September in neighboring Kaduna state.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is under pressure to take urgent action to free the potentially thousands of other children who remain in similar schools across Nigeria. Buhari, whose home state is Katsina, said in June that he planned to ban Almajiris eventually but would not do so right away.
Islamic schools, called Almajiris, are common in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern, a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend them.
At the other raided facilities, some parents thought their children would receive koranic education and even paid tuition. Other families sent “misbehaving” or “difficult” family members to these informal Islamic schools which are also meant to be correctional facilities where they are subjected to abuse.