More than 200 children kidnapped by gunmen from school in Nigeria

Attack by 'bandits' in Kaduna state is the second mass abduction in the West African nation in less than a week

A woman pleads for the rescue of schoolchildren who were kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria's Kaduna state on Thursday. AP Photo
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Gunmen have kidnapped more than 200 pupils from a school in Nigeria's north-western Kaduna state, a teacher and local residents said, in one of the country's largest mass abductions in three years.

Sani Abdullahi, the head teacher at GSS Kuriga school in the Chikun district of Kaduna, said the gunmen, known locally as bandits, struck early on Thursday firing gunshots in the air.

He told local officials that 187 pupils had been snatched from the main school along with another 100 from the school's primary classes.

Hundreds of schoolchildren and college students have been kidnapped in mass abductions in the country's north-west and central region, including in Kaduna, in the last three years.

Almost all were released for ransom payments after weeks or months spent in captivity in camps hidden in forests that stretch across north-western states.

Locals said the gunmen surrounded the government-owned school in Kuriga town just as the pupils and students were about to start the school day at around 8am.

"Early in the morning, before we got up, we heard gunshots from bandits, before we knew it they had gathered up the children," local resident Musa Mohammed told AFP.

"We are pleading to the government, all of us are pleading, they should please help us with security."

State officials confirmed the attack but said they were still working out how many children had been abducted. Often figures of those reported kidnapped or missing are lowered after people fleeing the attack return home.

"As of this moment we have not been able to know the number of children or students that have been kidnapped," Kaduna State Governor Uba Sani said during a visit to Kuriga on Thursday.

“We will ensure that every child will come back. We are working with the security agencies,” he told villagers in the area, about 90km from the state capital.

Thursday's kidnapping comes almost 10 years after Boko Haram extremists triggered international outcry by kidnapping more than 250 schoolgirls from Chibok in Nigeria's north-east.

Some of those girls are still missing.

Amnesty International condemned the abductions in Kaduna.

"Schools should be places of safety, and no child should have to choose between their education and their life," the rights group said on X, formerly Twitter.

"The Nigerian authorities must take measures immediately to prevent attacks on schools, to protect children's lives and their right to education."

Nigeria's armed forces are battling on several fronts, including against armed criminals in the north-west and a long-running extremist insurgency in the north-east of the country.

More than 100 people were missing after militants carried out a mass kidnapping last week targeting women and children in a camp for those displaced by the conflict in the north-east.

Last September, gunmen abducted more than 30 people, including 24 female students, in a raid in and around a university in northwest Zamfara State.

In February 2021, bandits raided a girls' boarding school in the town of Jangebe in Zamfara, kidnapping more than 300 students.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, 3,620 people were abducted in 582 kidnap-related incidents in Nigeria, according to local risk analysts SBM Intelligence.

Updated: March 08, 2024, 5:55 PM