Gunmen attack Nigeria school, abduct about 150 students

Around 150 children are missing after armed men attacked a school in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna state, a parent and an administrator told Reuters on Monday.

Police said gunmen shooting wildly raided the Bethel Baptist High School in southern Kaduna state overnight.

“They … overpowered the school’s security guards and made their way into the students hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest,” a police statement said, adding 26 people including a female teacher had been rescued.

Reverend John Hayab, a founder of the school, told Reuters about 25 students had managed to escape while the rest of the students remained missing.

Roughly 180 students attended the boarding school and were in the process of sitting for exams, according to Hayab, whose 17-year-old son escaped, and parent, Hassana Markus, whose daughter was among those missing.

Local residents who declined to be identified told Reuters that security officials had cordoned off the school after the attack, which took place between 11 pm on Sunday and 4 am on Monday morning.

Armed men, known locally as bandits, have made an industry of kidnapping students for ransom in northwest Nigeria, with Kaduna state particularly hard hit. They have taken nearly 1,000 people from schools since December last year, more than 150 of whom remain missing.

Kidnappers have also targeted roads, private residents, and even hospitals; in the early morning hours of Sunday, gunmen abducted six people including a one-year-old child from a hospital in northern Kaduna state.

School kidnappings in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province, but the tactic has now been adopted by other militants whose agenda is unclear.

In February, the presidency said President Muhammadu Buhari had urged state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles,” warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.

The unrest has become a political problem for Buhari, a retired general and former military ruler who has faced mounting criticism over high-profile attacks by the gangs.

The highest-profile school kidnapping was that of more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok in 2014. Around 100 of them remain missing.

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