Hundreds of ‘abused’ captives freed from Nigeria Islamic school

KADUNA, Nigeria: Police in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna have rescued more than 300 male students being held at an Islamic school where many had been tortured and sexually abused, a police spokesman said Friday.

Officers raided a building in the Rigasa area of the city on Thursday where the victims including adults and minors were kept in "the most debasing and inhuman conditions in the name of teaching them the Koran and reforming them", Kaduna state police spokesman Yakubu Sabo told AFP.

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"We found around 100 students including children as young as nine, in chains stuffed in a small room, all in the name of reforming them and making them responsible persons," Sabo said.

The school which has been operating for a decade, enrolled students brought by their families to learn the Koran and be rehabilitated from drug abuse and other illnesses, police said.

The proprietor of the school and six staff were arrested during the raid.

Victims at the facility were found padlocked to car hubcaps and had their hands and feet chained. Others bore scars down their backs.

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"The victims were abused. Some of them said they were sodomised by their teachers," Sabo stated.

Police had been tipped off by complaints from local residents who became suspicious of what was happening inside the school.

During the raid on the school, police said they found a "torture chamber" where students were chained, hung and beaten.

Local police chief Ali Janga said that despite its claims to be an educational institution, the conditions proved that the facility was "neither a rehab (centre) or an Islamic school".

Those held there "were used, dehumanised, you can see it yourself", Janga said.

Private Islamic schools are common in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, where government services are often lacking.

Officers raided a building in the Rigasa area, where the victims including adults and minors were kept in "the most debasing and inhuman" conditions AFP/-

'SEVERE PUNISHMENT'

One inmate quoted by Nigerian media described horrific conditions and treatment at the facility.

"I have spent three months here with chains on my legs," 42-year-old Bello Hamza said, adding that he was meant to be in South Africa studying for his Masters degree.

"This is supposed to be an Islamic centre, but trying to run away from here attracts severe punishment; they tie people and hang them to the ceiling for that."

Another victim Hassan Yusuf told AFP that he had been sent to the centre two years ago because he had converted to Christianity.

"They keep you incommunicado, you can't talk to anybody," the married father said.

Television footage showed emaciated children being loaded into minivans and driven away for processing.

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