Nigerian police said they are doing everything possible to rescue 15 kidnapped school children unharmed. Their school bus was hijacked early Monday by gunmen in Nigeria’s southeastern Abia State.
Gunmen from Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta
The kidnappers are said to be demanding a ransom of more than $100,000.
Emmanuel Ojukwu, assistant commissioner and first public relations officer for the Nigeria national police, said the children were not the target initially.
Instead, he told VOA the kidnappers used the children as human shields as police were closing in on them after breaking up an attempted criminal act.
“All we know is that they are using the children as shields against (a) police assault on them. We already know where they are, and we are working to get the children rescued unhurt,” he said.
Ojukwu refused to elaborate whether the police were actually planning to storm the bus and rescue the children.
“I will not say what we want to do, but what I mean by using them as human shields is that they (the kidnappers) went for an operation somewhere and the police were after them. So, in their bid to escape, they ran into the bus and used them (the children) to cover their tracks,” he Ojukwu said.
He reiterated the kidnappers did not initially target the children.
“Like I said, the children were not targeted initially. They (the kidnappers) were escaping from police assault in an operation that went awry, and they ran into the bus and used the bus and the children as a human shield,” Ojukwu said.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan waves to the crowd before their campaign declaration in Abuja on September 18, 2010.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly described the kidnapping as “utterly callous and cruel” and promised quick action to free the children.
Ojukwu said President Jonathan speaks for all Nigerians.
“The president has articulated the feelings of all Nigerians. So, we are concerned like everybody else. But, like I did say, we are making every effort to rescue the children unharmed and reunite them with their families,” Ojukwu said.
The police said the nursery and primary school children were abducted while they were being driven to the Abayi International School.
Ojukwu said the main responsibility of the police is to protect all Nigerians irrespective of their economic and social status.
“Every school in Nigeria is important to us and every life is important to Nigerian police. Our interest is not whether they are the children of wealthy persons or not. Every Nigerian child counts to the Nigerian government and Nigerian police,” Ojukwu said.