Reportedly no ransom paid for group.
Nine Catholics from Cameroon, including five priests, have been released by their kidnappers in Nigeria, after being held there for over a month.
In announcing the release, Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo of Mamfe, Cameroon, said on Sunday that he attributed the captives’ release to the prayers of the Christian community.
Armed militants on September 16 attacked and set fire to St. Mary’s Church in Nchang, a western village on Cameroon’s border with Nigeria. They then kidnapped five priests, a nun, a catechist, a cook, and a teenage girl.
“For over one month, we have experienced great pain and sorrow on account of the desecration of the main church of St. Mary’s Parish, Nchang, and the kidnap of our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Fondong Abangalo said in a statement. “I announce with great joy the release of all nine who were abducted.”
The bishop also expressed gratitude to “all those who collaborated with us in the process of negotiating for their safety and release.”
He did not elaborate on how the negotiations were conducted. An official of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons of Nigeria, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Crux News that his office was deeply involved in the negotiations.
“Some refugees who knew the kidnappers and their activities acted as informants to the Nigerian government,” the official said.
He added that there was one other person – not a refugee – from Nigeria who was in direct contact with the kidnappers.
“A meeting was held between myself, the refugee, and the third person in my Office in Calabar to strategize on how best to handle the issue and certain resolutions were reached,” adding there was constant contact between the parties until the release of the captives.
In a brief video, one of the released hostages said, “We want to thank the freedom fighters of Ambazonia for releasing us without any ransom paid, and for their hospitality.”
Ambazonia is the name the separatists use for the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
Last week, a video circulated on social media showing the kidnapping victims pleading with their bishop to secure their release. In the 45-second video, Fr. Cornelius Jingwa said he was “begging … that you do everything possible to get us out of here.”