Gunmen abduct 287 students in the latest school attack in Nigeria’s northwest, headteacher says

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen attacked a school in Nigeria’s northwest region on Thursday and abducted at least 287 students, its headteacher told authorities. This was the second mass kidnapping in the West African country in less than a week.

Kidnappings of students from schools in northern Nigeria are common and have become a concern since Islamic extremists kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok village in Borno state in 2014. In recent years, kidnappings have concentrated in the northwestern and central regions, where dozens of armed groups often target villagers and travelers for huge ransoms.

Locals told The Associated Press that the attackers surrounded the government school in Kuriga town, Kaduna state, on Thursday, just as pupils and students were about to start the school day at around 8am.

Authorities had previously said that more than 100 students were taken hostage in the attack. However, Sani Abdullahi, the head teacher, told Kaduna State Governor, Uba Sani, when he visited the town, that the total number of missing after a headcount stood at 287.

“We will ensure that every child comes back. We are working with the security forces,” the governor told villagers in the area 89 kilometers from the capital.

No group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, although blame fell squarely on shoulders armed groups, most of whom are herders who have been accused of carrying out violent attacks and kidnappings for ransom following decades of pastoral conflicts with host communities.

Security forces arrived with the governor several hours later as the search expanded, with community members and parents gathering to await news.

The attack took place days later more than 200 peoplemainly women and children, were kidnapped by extremists in northeastern Nigeria.

Women, children and students do often the target of mass kidnappings in the conflict-affected northern region and many victims are only released after paying large 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 the security situation” under Tinubu, said Oluwole Ojewale, a West and Central Africa researcher at the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies.

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