23 hostages from Nigeria passenger train reported freed

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) – More than 20 people abducted from a passenger train in Nigeria have regained their freedom after more than six months, Nigerian authorities said on Wednesday.

A government commission, composed by the Nigerian defense chief of staff, “assured the release and took into custody all 23 remaining hostage passengers,” the panel said.

Authorities did not respond to questions about how the hostages were freed. The commission has not announced any arrests in connection with the development.

It is not clear whether a ransom was paid to free the passengers. They are often located in many remote communities in troubled northern Nigeria, where large groups of attackers have kidnapped residents and travelers and then released them in exchange for large payments.

In late March, gunmen attacked the train with explosives and shots near Nigeria’s capital, killing seven and kidnapping dozens of others. Some passengers were previously freed in batches more than three times.

A spokesperson for the families of the other passengers said no one had notified them of the latest release.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack in March. Authorities said it was carried out by gunmen from northern Nigeria with the help of Islamist extremist rebels who have been in uprising in the northeast of the country for a decade.

Protesters accused the government of “not doing enough” to rescue the hostages in the months following the train attack.

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In September, Nigeria’s security forces arrested a negotiator who held independent talks with the attackers to free the remaining passengers. Authorities say they found “incriminating materials” in his home.

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