LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – Authorities have confirmed that 136 students in northern Nigeria were kidnapped by armed men earlier this week, including some as young as 5, the school owner said Thursday.
Gunmen on motorcycles attacked the Salihu Tanko Islamic school on Sunday, killing one person and also kidnapping three teachers, school owner Umar Idris told The Associated Press.
Idris said the number could be higher, however, as school officials couldn’t reach all parents to confirm that their children are back home.
“We sent a message asking parents who have not yet reported to the school to do so,” Idris said, adding that three teachers were also kidnapped.
Other preschoolers were left behind unable to keep up when the armed men rushed the abductees into the woods.
“The eleven children were mostly between 3 and 4 years old and didn’t have the stamina to keep up with the gunmen, so they were left on the way,” Idris said, adding that the preschoolers were found hours after the attack were.
The school’s students are between 3 and 14 years old, and parents fear that some of the youngest kidnap victims may not survive in the forest.
Gunmen kidnapped hundreds of students in northern Nigeria this year and the government has been unable to stop the spate of kidnappings for ransom. As a result, many schools have had to close due to concerns about the risk of kidnapping.
Earlier this week, 14 students and staff at Greenfield University in Kaduna state were released after more than a month in captivity. The gunmen, who demanded hundreds of thousands of ransom, had previously killed five other students in an attempt to force the students’ parents to raise the money.
Sam Olukoya, The Associated Press