Nigeria - Hundreds of Schoolgirls Feared Abducted in Raid

26 February 2021

Gunmen have abducted an unknown number of children in an attack on a boarding school. It's the second time in a week that kidnappers have targeted a school in the West African country.

An armed gang has abducted an unknown number of children in an attack on a boarding school in northwestern Nigeria, a state government spokesman said Friday.

The overnight incident -- the second mass kidnapping in a week -- took place in the town of Jangebe, Zamfara state, at around midnight.

"Unknown gunmen came shooting sporadically and took the girls away," Zamfara state information commissioner Sulaiman Tanau Anka told the Reuters news agency.

"Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students, they also moved some on foot," he said.

Teacher says hundreds of girls are missing

A teacher from the school, who wished to remain anonymous, told the AFP news agency that "more than 300 girls are unaccounted for after a headcount of remaining students."

A number of armed groups operate in Zamfara state, and are known to kidnap for money or in return for the release of their members from prison.

UNICEF representative in Nigeria Peter Hawkins called for the girls' immediate release.

"We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria," he said. "This is a gross violation of children's rights and a horrific experience for children to go through."

DW analysis from Abuja

DW correspondent Uwaisu Idris said Nigerian security forces were currently pursuing the bandits in a forested area where many criminal groups operate.

He said the gunmen were likely "kidnapping for ransom," and that some Nigerians in rural areas were turning to these gangs because they felt abandoned by the government.

"It's worsening insecurity, it's poverty, it's bad governance, it's injustice, it's corruption," he said. "When you don't give them a job, when you don't give him his own cattle to rear, what else is he going to do?"

Spike in violence

Nigeria's northwest has seen a rise in attacks by heavily armed criminal gangs in recent years. These groups are largely driven by financial motives, but there are concerns they are being infiltrated by jihadi militants waging an insurgency in the region.

Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 children, in an overnight raid on a boarding school in Niger state, which neighbors Zamfara. The hostages are yet to be released.

In December, more than 300 boys were taken from a school in the state of Katsina. They were eventually freed.

In the most notorious abduction case in recent years, Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in 2014. About 100 of them are still missing.

(Reuters, AFP)

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