Armed men have kidnapped an as-yet unconfirmed number of children from a secondary school in central Nigeria’s Niger state, according to local media and officials.
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 3 am (02:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
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.
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
There has been no official statement yet, but a former Senator Shehu Sani tweeted about the abduction, saying family members of the school staff were also taken by the bandits during the attack.
Early hours of this morning, Armed bandits stormed the Government Science College Kagara Niger State,my alma mata,and abducted some students and staff family members.I just spoke to the principal.This is the clip of one of my past visit to the School. pic.twitter.com/fFUpRlFEpz
— Senator Shehu Sani (@ShehuSani) February 17, 2021
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.
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 neighboring 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.