A month after they attacked a Kaduna-bound train killing nine people and abducting several others, the gunmen responsible for the attack have released two photos of their hostages.
The photos were posted on Facebook by Bilkisu Yero, a lecturer at the Kaduna State University.
The photos, which they released on Monday, was the third time the gunmen, locally referred to as bandits, would be releasing evidence showing that the abductees are alive.
Till now, Nigerian authorities have not been able to ascertain the exact number of those abducted.
The gunmen have previously released two video footage showing some of the passengers.
The abductees have remained with the gunmen for a month despite repeated calls by their relatives and other Nigerians for the government to secure their release from captivity.
In one of the photos, there were 23 abductees, mostly women and children. Among the children were two boys and three girls. The remaining 20 were all women.
Unlike the last video clip they released, the gunmen didn’t reveal the background on the pictures possibly to prevent their location from being tracked.
The gunmen used what looked like bed sheets to hide the natural background of the photos. The abductees were seated on a tarpaulin spread on the ground.
In the other photo, there were 17 men in two rows.
The description on the photo showed it was taken with an Infinix mobile phone.
Following the release of the photos, some people have identified their relatives among the abductees.
Mr Gamawa said he thought his aunt was killed during the attack and her body had not been found.
“Oh my dear sister and mum, first and second on your right hand sat on the floor. Allah ya fida ku baki daya (May God save you all),” said Yusuf Atta, a federal government employee with the Ministry of Information and Culture, in the comment section of Mr Yero’s post on Facebook.
“Oh My God, that is my mum and sis together. May God save them from these people,” wrote Habiba Abdulaziz, another Facebook user
Isma’el Yarima wrote “I can sight my sister. May Allah protect you all”
Sa’adatu Sani also identified her aunt among those in the photos.
Nasir Lawal said he identified his female lecturer at the Kaduna Polytechnic. “She is the one in black maybe”, he wrote.
Abdullahi Sani, also from Kaduna, said seeing his sister in the photo has helped to lessen the tension he had been in since the train attack.
“We thank God that she is still alive,” he said. “The Train Tragedy: My sister is visibly looking disturbed but Alhamdulillah she is alive. This is traumatizing to us.”
A family member of one of the abductees told this newspaper that they don’t want to comment on the situation because they learnt “the bandits are monitoring the media. Look at how they decided to change the background of the picture this time around. We were advised by some well-wishers to even stop posting their pictures on the social media or talk to you people (journalists) because the bandits are monitoring the spaces.”
He, however, expressed gratitude to God that his aunt is still alive.
A sociologist in Katsina State, Surajo Aliyu, said the bandits are possibly releasing the photos to create tension in the minds of family members of the abductees and possibly shame the government.
“What they need from the government, we don’t know but they’re surely doing this (releasing) the pictures to make the federal government uncomfortable. When family members of the abductees see the pictures, they’ll definitely pressurize the government by talking to the media and may be protesting. The government will have no option than to start discussing with them (bandits).”
Mr Aliyu said releasing the photos was part of the planned propaganda by the bandits to get at the government.