317 Schoolgirls Kidnapped by Bandits in Northwest Nigeria
A militia of some one hundred armed men stormed into a girls boarding school in northwest Nigeria on Thursday night and abducted over 300 of the schoolgirls. It was the second such kidnapping in less than a week.
The attack took place at the Jangebe secondary school in Zamfara state, a region where mass kidnappings are on the rise. Riding motorcycles and off-road vehicles, the men entered the school grounds around midnight.
“The armed men came into the school with vehicles, then they forced some of the girls to walk with them,” said Sulaiman Tunau Anka, a local government spokesperson.
One of the teachers said that 600 teenage girls had been in the dormitories during the attack, and that only “about 50” have since been accounted for, adding that the missing girls may have been kidnapped or escaped.
“The Zamfara State Police Command in collaboration with the military have commenced a joint search and rescue operation with a view to rescuing the 317 students kidnapped by the armed bandits in Government Girls Science Secondary School Jangebe,” police said in a statement.
Thursday’s kidnapping is the latest in a string of abductions of adolescents in central and northwestern Nigeria perpetrated by criminal groups, known locally as “bandits,” who terrorize the population, steal livestock, and loot villages.
Radical Islamists raided a town in northeast Nigeria near Lake Chad this week, killing three soldiers and taking hundreds of villagers as hostages. https://t.co/H79pZjcYf2
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This latest mass kidnapping took place just nine days after another similar attack on February 16 in a secondary school in Kagara, Niger state, where at least 27 students, a teacher and six members of his family were kidnapped by armed men.
In a further sign of a widespread breakdown in security across Nigeria, at least 16 people died on February 23 in a mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attack in the suburbs of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in the northeast of the country.
The assault was claimed in a video by a branch of the Boko Haram Islamic terror group led by Abubakar Shekau.
Last December, a group of bandits, acting on behalf of Boko Haram, kidnapped 344 students in a boarding school in the town of Kankara, in the neighboring state of Katsina.
The bandits released the teenagers after a week of captivity following negotiations with authorities. On February 9, the leader of the kidnappers, Awwalun Daudawa, turned himself in to the authorities in exchange for an amnesty agreement.
The recent abductions are symptomatic of a generalized fragmentation of the country, as ethnic groups demand not only greater autonomy, but also the definitive renunciation of a nation in which they have lost all trust and sense of belonging.
“Demands for ethnic secession should not be ignored or taken lightly,” said Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, President of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference (CBCN) in a recent statement cosigned by the general secretary of the CBCN.
“Nigeria is on the verge of collapse,” the statement said.