Islamabad: Pakistani citizen Dr Abuzar Mohammad Afzal has been freed more than 100 days after being kidnapped by militants in Nigeria, officials said.
Afzal is the only foreigner among seven hostages freed on July 9 though dozens of others are believed to be still in captivity.
Dr Afzal has already reached Abuja and was provided with an emergency travel document by the Pakistan High Commission to facilitate his return to his homeland to be reunited with his family in Multan on Eid Al Adha, Pakistani officials confirmed on Sunday.
In a video message from Kaduna city on July 10 morning, Dr Afzal thanked the governments of Pakistan and Nigeria, the negotiator, his employer and everyone who made efforts to secure his release and return to Pakistan.
“The Government and people of Pakistan express deep appreciation to the brotherly people and government of Nigeria for helping to secure the safe release of Pakistani citizen Dr Abuzar Mohammad Afzal kidnapped and held in captivity for over three months,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto thanked the leadership and people of Nigeria and Pakistan for their role in ensuring the safety Dr Afzal from the captivity of militants. “Highly relieved by the safe release of Pakistani national Abuzar M. Afzal, kidnapped in Nigeria since March,” he said, praising the efforts of everyone in Pakistan who worked tirelessly to ensure this outcome.
Pakistani among dozens kidnapped in train attack
The Pakistani citizen was one of the passengers taken hostage when gunmen attacked a busy passenger train between Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and Kaduna city, on March 28, 2022. Seven people were killed and several were abducted.
Nigeria’s state railway company confirmed that 65 people were missing after the attack. Nigerian media described it as a “terrorist attack”. The captors are believed to be gangs of bandits who are known to kidnap for ransom.
Tukur Mamu, who is not affiliated with the government but negotiated the deal to release the hostages, confirmed that seven hostages were freed on July 9. He claims that his negotiations have led to the release of 18 hostages so far. He told local media that 44 people who still remain in captivity required “urgent medical attention.” The families of the people still held by gunmen have been in anguish and implored the Nigerian government to speed up rescue efforts.