Armed men kidnap hundreds of schoolchildren in central Nigeria

Armed men believed to be part of a criminal gang stormed a school in central Nigeria, killed a student and abducted hundreds of others along with some teachers, sources said Wednesday.

Heavily armed gangs known as “bandits” in the northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up their attacks in recent years, kidnapping ransom, rape and looting.

Late Tuesday, many armed men in military uniforms stormed the Government Science College (GSC) in the city of Kagara, Nigerian state before dragging students into a nearby forest, a government official and security source said.

“Bandits went to GSC Kagara last night and kidnapped hundreds of students and their teachers,” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the problem.

“One of the kidnapped staff and some students escaped. The staff confirmed that a student was shot dead during the kidnapping operation,” the officer said.

Garba Shehu, a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, told AFP that he was aware of reports of students abducted from a school in Kagara and that a statement was being made.

Two months ago, more than 300 students were kidnapped in Kankara in the nearby state of Katsina.

The boys were later released, but the incident sparked worldwide outrage.

The school targeted on Tuesday has around 1,000 students and it was not immediately clear how many were taken.

“A head count is done to see how many students have been abducted,” a security source said.

Air support troops are chasing the bandits for a possible rescue operation, the source said.

On Tuesday, Nigerian authorities said bandits had killed 10 people and kidnapped at least 23 others in attacks on two remote villages.

The region is increasingly becoming a hub for criminal gangs raiding villages, killing and kidnapping residents after ransacking and setting fire to homes.

Bandits are known to hide in camps in the Rugu Forest, which stretches across the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger. Despite the deployment of troops, deadly attacks persist.

The story goes on

The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological bias.

However, there are growing concerns that they are being infiltrated by jihadists from the northeast who are leading a ten-year-old insurrection to establish an Islamic state.

The most recent kidnapping incident occurred almost three years after jihadists abducted 111 school girls in Dapchi in the north and six years after 276 girls from Chibok in the northeast were kidnapped in a robbery that shocked the world.

“Nigeria must declare a state of emergency due to uncertainty,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Abuja-based think tank for the Center for Democracy and Development.

“The government has to secure the schools and urgently too, otherwise the school robberies in Chibok, Dapchi and Kankara will encourage others to do it worse.”

abu / pma / lhd / ri

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