Gunmen abduct hundreds of Nigerian schoolchildren in Kaduna

According to officials, around 280 Nigerian schoolchildren have been abducted in the northwestern town of Kuriga.

According to one witness, the students were on the assembly grounds at 8:30 a.m. when dozens of shooters on motorbikes drove through the school.

The students, aged 8 to 15 were hauled away, along with a teacher, they stated.

Kidnapping gangs, sometimes known as bandits, have abducted thousands of individuals in recent years, particularly in the northwest.

However, there had been a decrease in mass children abductions during the previous year until this week.

Those kidnapped are usually released if a ransom is paid.

Uba Sani, governor of Kaduna state, which includes Kuriga, acknowledged the mass kidnapping.

He said 187 students had gone missing from a secondary school and 125 from the local primary school but that 25 had since returned.

President Bola Tinubu said he was “confident that the victims will be rescued”.

Sympathising with the families of those who had been taken, the president added that he had “directed security and intelligence agencies to immediately rescue the victims and ensure that justice is served against the perpetrators of these abominable acts”.

One pupil, believed to be 14-years-old, who had been shot by the gunmen and was being treated in hospital, has since died.

A teacher who managed to escape said local people had tried to rescue the children, but they were repelled by the gunmen and one person was killed in the shootout.

Zakariyya Nasiru, who had a brother and sister taken hostage, said the family were unable to sleep on Thursday night.

“All of us couldn’t sleep as we keep thinking about them. We are here praying for their safe return.”

Mr Nasiru said one boy had escaped last night and had brought back harrowing reports of their conditions, including a lack of food. Almost every family in the town is thought to have a child among those kidnapped.

The armed forces have launched an operation to find them. “No child will be left behind,” vowed the governor.

In January, bandits killed a school principal in the area and abducted his wife.

The kidnapping came just days after hundreds of women and children were allegedly kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram while collecting firewood in northeastern Nigeria.

Ansaru, a Boko Haram offshoot unit that kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, is being blamed for Thursday’s attack. Ansaru has authority over nearby territories.

No group has claimed responsibility for either of the kidnappings.The majority of kidnappings in northwestern Nigeria, particularly Kaduna state, are thought to be the work of criminal groups looking to profit from ransom payments.

In an attempt to limit Nigeria’s rising and lucrative kidnapping industry, a contentious law was introduced in 2022 making ransom payments a criminal offence. It carries a jail sentence of at least 15 years, however no-one has ever been arrested.