Hundreds of Nigerian boys and men freed from 'torture house'

27 September 2019, 19:43 | Updated: 25 October 2019, 15:04

Hundreds were freed in a police raid
Hundreds were freed in a police raid. Picture: Nigerian Police
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Children as young as five were among hundreds rescued from an "Islamic school" in Nigeria where they were allegedly being beaten, starved and sexually assaulted.

Roughly 400 boys and men were found with visible injuries following a police raid on a building in northern Nigeria on Thursday after a tip-off over suspicious activity to Kaduna State Police.

Their wounds suggested they had been tortured, revealed Kaduna State police spokesman Yakubu Sabo who was part of the raid.

"The condition under which we found the victims was so dehumanising, many of them were chained," Mr Sabo said.

Some of the victims were manacled at the ankles and others had their legs chained with large metal wheels to prevent them escaping.

A police officer reportedly held the hand of one boy who appeared to have sores on his back that were consistent with injuries inflicted by a whip.

Some of the injuries the children displayed were consistent with those inflicted by a whip
Some of the injuries the children displayed were consistent with those inflicted by a whip. Picture: Nigerian Police

Six people were arrested, along with the owner of the building who told police the children were brought there by their families to learn the Koran or because they had problems such as drug addiction.

However, police said the building was not licensed to run reformatory or educational programmes.

The children had been brought from several neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali.

Kaduna state’s police commissioner, Ali Janga, told reporters it was not clear how long the children and men had been there and that the government was providing food for them.

He said: "This place is neither a rehab or an Islamic school because you can see it for yourselves.

"The children gathered here are from all over the country... some of them were even chained. They were used, dehumanized, you can see it yourself."

The building claimed to be an "Islamic school" where children would learn the Koran
The building claimed to be an "Islamic school" where children would learn the Koran. Picture: Nigerian Police

One young man, Hassan Yusuf, said he was sent to the "school" because of concerns regarding his lifestyle after studying overseas for a few years.

He did not say what his relationship was with the people who sent him to the building.

“They said my lifestyle has changed - I’ve become a Christian, I’ve left the Islamic way of life,” said Yusuf.

Another victim told Nigerian media they had spent three months in the centre with chains around their legs.

Bell Hamza said: "This is supposed to be an Islamic centre, but trying to run away from here attracts severe punishment; they tie people and hang them to the ceiling for that."

Hassan Mohammed, the uncle of three of the freed children, grew suspicious over the lack of access he had to them.

He said: "This is supposed to be an Islamic centre, but trying to run away from here attracts severe punishment; they tie people and hang them to the ceiling for that."

A temporary camp has been set up at a stadium in Kaduna while attempts to find the parents of the children are made.

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