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Nigeria IS affiliate releases five abducted aid workers after days of negotiations

The decade-long conflict in northeast Nigeria has killed some 35,000 people [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2020

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Local aid workers kidnapped in Nigeria in December have been released by an Islamic State group affiliate following negotiations with the country's security services.

Islamic State group-aligned militants have released five local aid workers abducted last month in Nigeria's restive northeast, security sources and one of those freed said on Thursday.

The aid workers were seized along with other passengers in two separate incidents in December when fighters from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) disguised as soldiers intercepted vehicles on highways outside the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. 

ISWAP, which split from the Boko Haram extremist group in 2016, has focused on targeting military installations and troops since mid-2018. 

However, there has recently been an increase in attacks on civilians blamed on ISWAP.

The decade-long conflict in northeast Nigeria has killed 35,000 people and displaced around 2 million from their homes.

The violence has spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition to fight the Islamists.

A security source told AFP "the five aid workers were released... after days of mediated negotiations with ISWAP" on Wednesday.

The hostages are local staff of international humanitarian agencies, providing aid to thousands of people displaced by the violence in the region, the source said. 

Asabe Musa, a hygiene specialist with ALIMA (Alliance for International Medical Action), a French NGO, was among the five freed hostages.

"We were released by our captors today (Wednesday). Two of us are from ALIMA, one each from Red Cross, Solidarity and IOM (International Office for Migration)," Musa said.

"We were first taken to the DSS headquarters before we were handed over to our various agencies," she told AFP, referring to Nigeria's domestic intelligence agency.

"We are all in good health. I and my colleagues are now at ALIMA office here in Maiduguri where we are staying for the night."

The negotiations for the release were initiated by the Department for State Services, a security source told the agency.

It was not clear whether ransom was paid for the aid workers' release. 

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