Sixteen child hostages freed in Nigeria
Sixteen children who were kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this week have been freed. Police say no ransom was paid, and none of them were hurt. It's believed they were released in a joint police and military operation.
Police say some of the kidnappers were killed, and the rest are being pursued.
The hijacking occurred on Monday on the outskirts of the city of Aba in Nigeria's oil-rich south. Police have said the gunmen ordered the bus driver to stop at gunpoint before taking the children who studied at Abayi International School.
The authorities have said all the children, believed to be between three and 10-years-old, were Nigerian. Kidnappers had demanded a 20 million naira (95,650 euros) ransom, and parents of some of the children on Thursday begged the abductors to release them, saying they could not afford to pay the amount.
The hijacking signalled a disturbing escalation in the spate of kidnappings that had already provoked fear in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, while also drawing widespread condemnation in Nigeria.
Just last week, doctors in Aba state had gone on strike over what they said was the kidnap and murder of one of their colleagues. Much of the city was shut down this week after the hijacking out of fears of further such attacks, and the military patrolled the streets on Thursday.
Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region has seen scores of kidnappings in recent years.
President Goodluck Jonathan, running in elections to be held early next year, called the hijacking "utterly callous and cruel" and pledged action to free the victims. The children's release comes as the country celebrated 50 years of independence.