Hundreds of men and boys — including those as young as 5 — were rescued from a “house of torture” in Nigeria, resulting in the arrest of multiple teachers.
The victims — about 400 according to AP News, and about 500 according to BBC News — reportedly endured beatings, sexual assault, starvation and were even chained at the Kaduna State home in northern Nigeria, police spokesman Yakubu Sabo told AP Friday. Eight suspects, many of whom are teachers, have been arrested.
Authorities raided the “house of torture” after being given a tip about suspicious activity, Kaduna Police Chief Ali Janga told BBC.
Officers say the building was presumed to be an Islamic school, including by relatives of some child detainees, the victims told authorities. A photo of the building from Nigerian police shows a sign that, when translated, reads, “Ahmad bin Hambal Centre for Islamic Teachings.”
According to AP, police said the building wasn’t licensed to run an educational program nor a reformatory one, despite the owner’s claims that families brought children there to study the Quran or when they suffered from drug addiction.
In northern Nigeria, a predominant Muslim region, it isn’t uncommon for young boys to be sent away to learn the Quran, though they are often found on the streets begging to contribute to their new homes, AP reports.
Some of the victims were held for years.
While two young victims told police they had been sent from Burkina Faso — a landlocked country in West Africa — by their parents, most victims are thought to be from northern Nigeria.
The government will keep giving medical care to the detainees, Hafsat Muhammad Baba, from the Kaduna state government, told BBC.
Families are identifying victims at a camp where they’re now being sheltered.