Thursday, March 7, 2024

Gunmen abduct 287 students in northwestern Nigeria in latest school attack

Gunmen attacked a school in Nigeria’s northwest region Thursday morning and abducted at least 287 students, the headteacher told authorities, marking the second mass abduction in the West African nation in less than a week.

Locals told The Associated Press the assailants surrounded the government-owned school in Kaduna State’s Kuriga town just as the pupils were about to start the school day.

Authorities had said earlier that more than 100 students were taken hostage in the attack. Sani Abdullahi, the headteacher, however, told Kaduna Gov. Uba Sani when he visited the town that the total number of those missing after a headcount was 287.

“We will ensure that every child will come back. We are working with the security agencies,” the governor told the villagers.

Abductions of students from schools in northern Nigeria are common and have become a source of concern since 2014 when Islamic extremists kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in Borno state’s Chibok village. In recent years, the abductions have been concentrated in northwestern and central regions, where dozens of armed groups often target villagers and travelers for huge ransoms.

The assailants stormed a government primary school in Chikun’s Kuriga town shortly after morning assembly at 8 a.m., taking almost 200 pupils hostage before any help could come, said Joshua Madami, a local youth leader.

Security forces and a government delegation arrived in the town several hours later as a search operation widened, while community members and parents gathered to wait for news.

“The government is trying everything possible with the security agencies to see how we can rescue them,” said Musa, the council chairman.

The attack occurred days after more than 200 people, mostly women and children, were abducted by extremists in northeastern Nigeria.
Women, children and students are often targeted in the mass abductions in the conflict-hit northern region and many victims are released only after paying huge ransoms.

Observers say both attacks are a reminder of Nigeria’s worsening security crisis which resulted in the deaths of several hundred people in 2023, according to an AP analysis.

Bola Tinubu was elected president of Nigeria last year after promising to end the violence. But there has been “no tangible improvement in security situation yet” under Tinubu, said Oluwole Ojewale, West and Central Africa researcher with the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies.

Chinedu Asadu, AP

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