Nigerian authorities are scrambling to find the families of the hundreds of men and boys freed from a school where they were kept in chains, sexually abused and tortured.
Police freed as many as 400 captives, aged from six to 50, from the ‘house of horror’ in Kaduna in northern Nigeria in a raid on Thursday.
Some were chained to radiators, tires or hub caps and others bore visible signs of scars from whippings and beatings while others had been sodomised.
More than a dozen, including 10 children, were hospitalised today with some in critical condition, with one vomiting blood.
One of the chilldren rescued by police, with bruises on his back, eats at the Hajj transit camp in Kaduna, Nigeria, today
Parents of some of the chilldren rescued by police wait to see them after hearing of the horrific abuse they have suffered
Some students rescued from the Islamic boarding school eat food at Ahmadu Bello Stadium after they were freed in a police raid
Police have set up a makeshift camp for the others at the edge of the city and were trying to register the freed captives
Some of the 400 male students of ‘different nationalities’ sit on the floor in chains outside the school’s torture chamber in the Rigasa area of Kaduna
The detainees, most of them young boys, emerged with scars on their bodies and chains on their feet after police raided the building
Police set up a makeshift camp for the others at the edge of the city and were trying to register the freed captives.
In one of the buildings at the camp, children queued to register their names against a list, later laughing and playing before being served a plate of noodles.
Outside, dozens of parents, faces contorted with worry, gathered to collect their children.
Some had paid tuition fees to the men running the house believing it to be an Islamic school, while others viewed it as a correctional facility with no expectation of instruction.
Some had paid tuition fees to the men running the house believing it to be an Islamic school (pictured)
Abdulllahi Sanni, 12, one of the chilldren rescued by police, shows the marks on his back at the Hajj transit camp
Some of the male students are pictured after being rescued by police from an Islamic school where they were tortured and sodomised
During the raid on the school, police said they found a ‘torture chamber’ where students were chained, hung and beaten
Kaduna state police spokesman Yakubu Sabo said the ‘dehumanised treatment’ they discovered made it impossible to consider the house an Islamic school.
Hafsat Mohammed Baba, the state’s commissioner of human services and social development, told Reuters a headcount had accounted for just 190 people, including 113 adults and 77 children.
The reason for the discrepancy in numbers was not immediately clear, but authorities said some freed from the home fled immediately.
Police raided the school after a relative was denied access to the captives. Seven people who said they were teachers at the school were arrested in the raid.
Police called on families from across the region, from the suburbs of Kaduna to the nearby countries of Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso, to collect the freed captives.
A policeman watches over students of the Islamic boarding school rescued after suffering ‘dehumanising treatment’ at the school
One of the chilldren rescued by police drinks at the Hajj transit camp as police try to reunite the victims with their families
Personal effects of students rescued from the boarding school. Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria
A man stands with chains on his ankles and wrists. Private Islamic schools are common in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, where government services are often lacking
Despite the reports of abuse, some were reluctant to return home with their family members.
Mohammed Sani Abu Sha’aban, a father of 13 from the Kaduna suburb of Nasarawa, sent two of his sons – 16-year-old Salim and 25-year-old Jamilu – to the school for more than three years.
He paid 34,000 naira (£76) per term and said it had helped his sons, particularly Salim. ‘Now that they are set free, he may relapse into his past negative attitude of absconding from school and other vices,’ Sha’aban said.
Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Widespread poverty prompts many parents to leave their children at the institutions, yet they have been dogged by reports of abuse and accusations that some children are forced to beg on the streets rather than get an education.
Some activists have called on the government to outlaw the schools.
But Sha’aban, who said he visited regularly and never saw signs of poor treatment, called on the state to keep the Kaduna school open.
‘The closure of the school is really a source of concern and very disturbing to us who have unruly children and wards,’ he said.