Gunmen kidnapped 317 girls from school in northern Nigeria
Affected Countries: nigeria;
Gunmen have abducted 317 girls from a boarding school in northern Nigeria in the latest mass kidnapping of students in the West African nation, police said on Friday.
Police and the military have begun joint operations to rescue the children after the nighttime attack at the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe town, Mohammed Shehu, a police spokesman said.
Nasiru Abdullahi, a parent, told The Associated Press that his daughters, aged 10 and 13, are among the missing.
‘It is disappointing that even though the military have a strong presence near the school they were unable to protect the girls,’ he said.
‘At this stage, we are only hoping on divine intervention.’
This is the second such incident in just over a week in Nigeria’s north, which has seen a surge of activity by armed groups. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
‘There’s information that they were moved to a neighbouring forest, and we are tracing and exercising caution and care,’ Zamfara police commissioner Abutu Yaro told a news conference.
He did not say whether those possibly moved to the forest included all of them.
Zamfara’s information commissioner, Sulaiman Tanau Anka, told Reuters news agency that the assailants stormed in firing sporadically during the 1 a.m. raid.
‘Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students, they also moved some on foot,’ he said.
Musa Mustapha, a resident of Jangebe town, said the gunmen had also attacked a nearby military camp checkpoint, preventing soldiers from intervening and allowing the gunmen to spend several hours at the school.
Jangebe town seethed with anger over the abduction, said a government official who was part of the delegation to the community.
Young men hurled rocks at journalists driving through the town, injuring a cameraman, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
‘The situation at Jangebe community is tense as people mobilised to block security operatives, journalists and government officials from getting access to the main town,’ he said.
Parents also had no faith in authorities to return their kidnapped girls, said Mohammed Usman Jangebe, the father of one abductee, by phone.
‘We are going to rescue our children, since the government isn’t ready to give them protection,’ he said.
‘All of us that have had our children abducted have agreed to follow them into the forest. We will not listen to anyone now until we rescue our children,’ Jangebe said, before ending the call.
Several large armed groups are known to operate in Zamfara state, where the school is located.
The groups, described by the government as bandits, kidnap people for money and as leverage to negotiate the release of their members from jail.
While school kidnappings were first carried out by jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province, the tactic has now been adopted by other militants in the northwest whose agenda is unclear.
Teachers have been forced to flee to other states for protection, and many children have had to abandon their education amid frequent violent attacks in communities, according to Amnesty International.
The United Nations called Friday’s attack ‘a gross violation of children’s rights’ and called for the immediate release of the girls.
‘We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria,’ Peter Hawkins, the Unicef representative in the country, said.
‘This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through’.
Amnesty also condemned the ‘appalling attack,’ warning in a statement that ‘the girls abducted are in serious risk of being harmed’.
Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years, most notably the mass abduction in April 2014 of 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok by Boko Haram. More than a hundred of the girls are still missing.
Friday’s attack came less than two weeks after gunmen abducted 42 people, including 27 students, from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger State.
The students, teachers and family members are still being held.
In December, 344 students were abducted from the Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, while he was visiting the region.
They were eventually released after negotiations with government officials.
Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, noted the recent abductions and tweeted that ‘strong action is required from the authorities to turn the tide & keep schools safe.’
Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at Lagos-based risk consultancy SBM Intelligence, said many northern governors were keen to pay to avoid protracted hostage situations attracting international outrage, which in turn gave an incentive for more abductions. The government denies paying kidnappers.
‘When you have these mass abductions now and you see victims are released relatively quickly, unlike Chibok, the one thing that has changed is money,’ Effiong said.
President Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this month amid the worsening violence.
Source: Daily Mail