Nigeria abduction: At least 275 pupils missing after gunmen storm school | Armed Groups News

A search and rescue team has been deployed to find the missing children, many between the ages of eight and 15.

Hundreds of people are missing after gunmen attacked a school in northwestern Nigeria in the country’s second mass kidnapping in a week.

Local government officials in Kaduna state confirmed the kidnappings from Kuriga school on Thursday, but did not provide figures as they were calculating how many children had been kidnapped.

Al Jazeera’s Fidelis Mbah said from the capital Abuja on Friday that school authorities had told the governor that about 25 of the kidnapped students had been returned to their parents, but 275 were still missing.

A search and rescue team was deployed to rescue the children.

Mbah said about 175 of the people still missing are between eight and 15 years old.

Kuriga city councilor Idris Maiallura said he had been to the school and the gunmen initially took away 100 primary school students but later released them while others escaped.

Parents and residents blame the kidnappings on a lack of security in the area.

Amnesty International called on authorities to safely rescue the students and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“Schools should be safe places, and no child should have to choose between their education and their life,” the rights group said on protect the lives of children and their right to education”.

‘The government has neglected us’

“We don’t know what to do, we are all waiting to see what God can do. They are my only children that I have on earth,” Fatima Usman, whose two children were among those abducted, told Reuters by telephone.

Another parent, Hassan Abdullahi, told Reuters that local vigilantes had tried to repel the gunmen but had been overpowered.

‘Seventeen of the kidnapped students are my children. I feel very sad that the government has completely neglected us in this area,” Abdullahi said.

People gather in an area where gunmen kidnapped students on March 7, 2024 in Chikun, Nigeria [AP Photo]

Kidnappings for ransom are common in Africa’s most populous country, where heavily armed criminal gangs have targeted schools and universities in the past, especially in the northwest, although such attacks have declined recently.

In 2014, the armed group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok village in Borno state.

The last major reported kidnapping involving students in Kaduna occurred in July 2021, when gunmen took more than 150 children in a raid. Months later, they were reunited with their families after paying a ransom.

Since taking office in May, President Bola Tinubu has made reducing insecurity one of his priorities, but the armed forces are battling on several fronts, including a protracted battle in the country’s northeast.

Al Jazeera’s Mbah said Nigeria has seen a wave of attacks and kidnappings in recent weeks, and the military has said it lacks the weapons to confront and overpower armed groups.

Chris Kwaja, associate professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Modibbo Adama University in northeastern Nigeria, told Al Jazeera on Friday that the frequency of kidnappings tells an “unfortunate story about the high level of coordination, sophistication and lethality” that determines the organized criminal groups in the country.

There is also a level of complicity within the affected communities that allows kidnappers to know how to undertake such operations, Kwaja said.

The criminal networks can provide incentives to people within communities who feel unsupported by the government and who face “hunger, starvation, poverty and unemployment,” he added.

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