Abuja, Nigeria – Armed men have kidnapped at least 42 people, including 27 students, from a secondary school in central Nigeria’s Niger state, according to officials.
Abdullberqy Ebbo, director general, strategic operation of Niger state in a tweet said “one student was shot by the bandits and lost his life”.
“Twenty-seven students, three staff and 12 members of their families were kidnapped. Unfortunately, one student was shot dead,” Governor Abubakar Sani Bello was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ibrahim Matane, Niger State government secretary, told BBC News Pidgin that armed men had attacked the Government Science College in Kagara, about 260km (160 miles) northwest of the Nigerian capital Abuja, at approximately 3am (02:00 GMT).
A large number of students, whose exact figure is yet to be ascertained, have been abducted by armed bandits at Government Science College, GSC Kagara, in Niger State: https://t.co/KTT5lDMUJl
— Amnesty International Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) February 17, 2021
The attackers, dressed in military uniforms and masks, stormed the school hostels to take away children, local media reported, adding that some of the children escaped during the incident.
Government Science College has a student body of about a thousand.
School authorities have begun a headcount to determine the exact number of missing children.
President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned “the cowardly attack on innocent school children.”
“The President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives,” Garba Shehu, president’s spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday.
No group has claimed responsibility.
The incident comes hours after bandits released a video of more than 20 people abducted from a commercial bus near Zungeru town in Niger state.
It raises growing concerns about security and violence in the country’s north.
The President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives.
In December, the Boko Haram armed group claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of students from an all-boys school in the northwestern state of Katsina.
The more than 300 schoolboys were released after a few days in captivity.
Boko Haram and its splinter faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), have for more than a decade waged a violent armed campaign in the northeast of the country and neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, in 2014 abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, in the northeastern state of Borno, drawing global condemnation. Some of the girls managed to escape from captivity, while others were either rescued or freed. The fate of more than 100 girls is still unknown.
In recent years, armed gangs have surged through Nigeria’s northwest and kidnappers patrol many of the country’s roads.
In January, President Muhammadu Buhari replaced the country’s top military commanders after months of pressure over his response to the worsening security situation in the country.
Since 2009, at least 36,000 people have been killed in armed conflicts in the country.