May 20, 2024

More than 280 Nigerian school pupils have been abducted in the north-western town of Kuriga, officials say.

The pupils were in the assembly ground around 08:30 (07:30 GMT) when dozens of gunmen on motorcycles rode through the school, one witness said.

The students, between the ages of eight and 15, were taken away, along with a teacher, they added.

Kidnap gangs, known as bandits, have seized hundreds of people in recent years, especially the north-west.

However, there had been a reduction in the mass abduction of children over the past year until this week.

The incident was confirmed by Uba Sani, the governor of Kaduna state, which includes Kuriga.

He said 187 students had gone missing from the Government Secondary School and 125 from the local primary school but that 25 had since returned.

The eyewitness, meanwhile, said that one pupil was shot by the gunmen and was receiving medical attention at the Birnin Gwari hospital.

A teacher who managed to escape said local people had tried to rescue the children, but they were repelled by the gunmen and one person was killed.

Almost every family is thought to have a child among the kidnapped victims and the armed forces have launched an operation to find them.

In January, bandits killed a school principal in the area and abducted his wife.

The kidnapping comes days after dozens of women and children were feared kidnapped by the Boko Haram Islamist group while they were collecting firewood in north-eastern Nigeria.

However, the two cases of mass abductions are not thought to be related.

The criminal kidnap gangs that bring fear to north-western Nigeria are separate to the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in the north-east, although there have been reports that they may have worked together on occasion.

Thursday’s attack happened in an area controlled by Ansaru, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, which kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014.

In an attempt to curb Nigeria’s spiralling and lucrative kidnapping industry, a controversial law that has made it a crime to make ransom payments was passed in 2022. It carries a jail sentence of at least 15 years, however no-one has ever been arrested.

Earlier this year, the family of a group of sisters kidnapped in the capital, Abuja, denied a police statement that the security forces had rescued the girls, saying that they had no choice but to pay the ransom.

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