Witnesses in Nigeria say hundreds of children kidnapped in second mass-abduction in less than a week

Johannesburg – More than 280 students were abducted from their primary school in northern Nigeria early Thursday morning by unknown assailants on motorcycles, witnesses told the French news agency AFP. If the figures are confirmed, it could be an even bigger kidnapping event than the infamous 2014 raid by Boko Haram Islamist militants on a school in the Nigerian city Chibok, where 276 girls were kidnapped from their dormitory, nearly 100 of whom are still missing.

Local media and CBS News’ partner network BBC News first reported the mass kidnapping on Thursday – the second to hit Nigeria in less than a week. A student was said to have been shot in the chaos at the school in Kuriga town, Kaduna State. and taken to a hospital.

AFP said on Friday, citing residents, that one person was killed in the attack, but it was unclear whether a student or adult was killed.

BBC News on Thursday quoted witnesses as saying the children from Kuriga were aged between 8 and 15 and that one teacher had been taken with them. Kaduna state officials confirmed the mass kidnapping in Kuriga but said they could not provide figures as they were still trying to figure out how many children may have escaped or been released.

NIGERIA REST-KIDNAPPING
A screenshot from a video shows families of kidnapped students gathering during the visit of Kaduna State Governor, Uba Sani, on March 7, 2024, after gunmen abducted over 280 students from a school in Kuriga, Kaduna, northern Nigeria.

AFPTV/AFP via Getty


The kidnapping took place just days later another mass kidnapping in Nigeria’s tumultuous northwhere dozens of children, mostly girls, were reportedly seized by militants in Borno state, further east.

Sani Abdullahi, a teacher at GSS Kuriga school, told AFP that staff members managed to escape with many students when unidentified gunmen stormed the building early on Thursday and shot into the air.

“In GSS Kuriga, 187 children are missing,” Abdullahi told AFP, referring to a high school in the town. He added that a further 125 children were taken from the linked primary school, but said “25 returned”.

Muhammad Adam, a local resident, also told AFP that more than 280 children had been kidnapped.

Hundreds of students kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria
A map and infographic show the location of Kuriga town, Kaduna State in northern Nigeria, where more than 280 schoolchildren were reportedly abducted on March 7, 2024.

Omar Zaghloul/Anadolu/Getty


“Early in the morning, before we got up, we heard gunshots from bandits. Before we knew it, they had rounded up the children and taken away the students and their teachers, almost 200 people,” Musa Mohammed, another resident, told French News. desk. “We are pleading with the government, we are all pleading: they should please help us with security.”

In the previous incident, dozens of young women and girls who had been collecting firewood near a camp for internally displaced persons in Borno were reportedly arrested by armed men.

Witnesses told local news media that more than 100 young women and several boys had been rounded up near the Babban Sansani displaced persons camp.

Until last week, Nigeria had seen a significant decline in kidnappings by criminal groups known as bandits. The Nigerian government had not commented on any of the attacks as of late Thursday afternoon.

Nigerian students kidnapped
A July 6, 2021 file photo shows sandals of students at Bethel Baptist High School, following an attack by gunmen in Kaduna State, Nigeria, in which dozens of students were abducted by armed bandits.

AP


The Nigerian Daily Trust newspaper, citing a source from the Babba Sansani camp, said the fighters were from the Islamist group. militant group Boko Haramand “three of the girls who escaped and returned to Ngala said the boys [insurgents] took them to a village across Nigeria’s northeastern border, in neighboring Chad.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told the French news agency AFP that an estimated 200 people were taken in that raid and that head counts are being done at the camp to arrive at a more accurate number.

There were conflicting reports from witnesses as to whether the attackers in Borno State were from Boko Haram or the ISIS affiliate in the region called the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Both groups are active in the region.


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Borno State Police said the attack took place on Friday afternoon, but police could not confirm the numbers of persons abducted or missing.

The kidnappings come after Borno officials said late last year that most of Boko Haram fighters in the state were dead or had been captured.

If initial counts prove accurate, Thursday’s kidnapping would be the largest mass kidnapping in Nigeria since the April 14, 2014 attack on the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok. 276 girls taken from their dormitory by Boko Haram militants.

Some of those girls remain in captivity.

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