Nigerian police have freed 259 men, women and children from an illegal Islamic rehabilitation centre, where children were beaten and starved.
The latest rescue operation in the southwestern city of Ibadan, is part of a wider crackdown in the country, ordered by its Muslim president Muhammadu Buhari.
Over the last few months, security forces have been clamping down on ‘rehabilitation centres’, where children are regularly beaten by clerics.
In one example, a man was refused permission to see his nephews at an institution and complained to police.
Nearly 1,500 people have been freed so far after the crackdown was launched in September.
Many reported being held in prison like buildings, with bars covering windows.
Nigeria group Muslim Rights Concern estimates about 10 million children attend Islamic institutions in the West African country, which has a mainly Christian, relatively prosperous, south and a largely Muslim north.
A police officer talks to people who sit on the ground after being freed by police from an Islamic rehabilitation centre in Ibadan, Nigeria
in this picture released by Nigeria Police November 5, 2019.
In September, more than 300 boys and men, some as young as five, were rescued in a raid on a building that purported to be an Islamic school in northwestern Nigeria’s Kaduna city.
Many were in chains and bore scars from beatings. Some had been there for years.
Last month also saw a series of raids, with police rescuing 67 men and boys aged between seven and 40 from an Islamic school in the town of Daura in northwestern Katsina state, where the captives had been shackled.
Former students said instructors had beaten them and some reported sexual abuse.
Later in October, police freed about 500 men and boys, many of whom had been chained to walls, molested and beaten, from an Islamic school in the northwestern city of Katsina in its eponymous state, law enforcement sources said.
Another raid on October 24, police also rescued 108 malnourished and sick captives aged from six to 45 from a so-called Islamic reform centre in Ilorin in central Nigeria’s Kwara state.
President Buhari’s office issued a statement in October saying that ‘no responsible democratic government would tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation of the victims.