February 17, 2021 5:52:20 pm
Students and teachers were abducted from a school in Niger state, Nigerian officials confirmed on Wednesday.
Schools have become regular targets for militant groups in Nigeria as well as criminal gangs seeking ransom money.
What we know so far
The early-morning attack took place at the Government Science College in the town of Kagara in Niger state.
At least one student is believed to have been killed after gunmen opened fire at the school, sources told news broadcaster “Channels” and the Leadership newspaper.
An exact number of students detained is not known. An estimated 1,000 children attend the school.
Several teachers were also abducted.
The students were herded by the attackers into a nearby forest, AFP reported.
What have officials said?
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the kidnapping and ordered a rescue operation.
“The President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives,” his spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.
Buhari also urged security forces “to do all that can be done to bring an end to this saga, and avoid such cowardly attacks on schools in the future.”
The statement said the full number of students and staff who had been abducted was not yet known.
What do we know about the kidnappers?
The kidnappers and their motives were not immediately clear. Nigerian officials have not yet publicly released details.
The attackers appeared in “huge numbers” at the school in the early hours of Wednesday morning, wearing military uniforms.
Although investigations are ongoing, an official who requested anonymity told AFP the gunmen are believed to belong to a criminal gang.
Criminal gangs, referred to locally as “bandits,” have increasingly been involved in kidnappings, rape and other crimes across central and northern Nigeria.
The gangs are driven by financial motives — kidnapping children and others and holding them for ransom.
The Islamist group Boko Haram as well as a branch of the militant “Islamic State” (IS) group have also carried out mass kidnappings in the past in northern Nigeria.
In December last year, an armed group abducted 344 schoolboys from their school in the northwestern Katsina state.
They were released shortly after the kidnapping and returned to their families.
In 2014, Boko Haram abducted over 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. Around 100 remain missing.
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