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Boko Haram frees 49 women kidnapped in Nigeria's Borno state

By Ahmed Kingimi

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Forty-nine women kidnapped by Boko Haram earlier in the week near Maiduguri, in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state, regained their freedom early on Friday after a state official paid a ransom for their release, two of the victims and a local leader said.

The women were abducted on their farms on Tuesday morning in Shuwaei Kawuri village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, two victims who did not want to be identified told Reuters.

"We were all released at midnight after Boko Haram said our families secured our release after meeting their demands," one of the victims said.

While the Islamists had demanded a 3 million naira ($3,891.86) ransom, the women, who are mostly poor peasant farmers, were released after a state official paid 1 million naira to the assailants following negotiations to secure their freedom, the local traditional leader said. He didn't want to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to Reuters.

Borno commissioner for youth and police spokesman Sani Kamilu Shatambaya didn't immediately respond to calls for comment.

In late July, Islamists beheaded at least 10 farmers in Borno, a hotbed for insurgency and the epicentre of a 14-year war-on-terror in Nigeria that has spilled into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

The militants have been killing and abducting farmers in the mostly agrarian region, residents said, disrupting farming villages, which could lead to rise in food prices for a country already reeling with double-digit inflation.

($1 = 770.8400 naira)

(Reporting by Ahmed Kingimi; Editing Elisha Bala-Gbogbo and Sandra Maler)