General

Hundreds of girls unaccounted for after new abductions in Nigeria

Gunmen raided a school in northwestern Nigeria overnight, abducting students, local authorities said

Friday, raising fears that the country had been hit by another mass

kidnapping.

The suspected armed bandits attacked the Government Girls Secondary School

in Jangebe in Zamfara state, kidnapping an unknown number of students from

dormitories.

In the initial aftermath, teachers said several hundred girls were

unaccounted for.

“It is true, gunmen… kidnapped students,” Sulaiman Tunau Anka, the state

information commissioner, confirmed.

“They went to the school with vehicles. They forced some of the girls to

trek.”

The security forces are tracking the criminals, he added.

Heavily-armed criminal gangs known locally as “bandits” in northwest and

central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for

ransom, raping and pillaging.

Just last week, 42 people were taken by a gang from a boys school in nearby

Niger state.

In December, more than 300 boys were kidnapped from a school in Kankara, in

President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, while he was visiting the

region.

The boys were later released but the incident triggered outrage and

memories of the kidnappings of schoolgirls by jihadists in Dapchi and Chibok

that shocked the world.

One teacher told AFP “more than 300 are unaccounted for” after Friday’s

attack, while another teacher had a higher estimate.

“Out of the 600 students in the school only around 50 have been accounted

for. The rest have been abducted. It is possible some of them managed to

escape, but we are not sure,” the second teacher said.

A parent told AFP he had received a phone call about the incident.

“I’m on my way to Jangebe. I received a call that the school was invaded by

bandits who took away schoolgirls. I have two daughters in the school,” said

Sadi Kawaye.

– Angered, horrified –

“We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on

schoolchildren in Nigeria,” UNICEF representative in Nigeria Peter Hawkins

said in a statement.

“This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience

for children to go through — one which could have long-lasting effects on

their mental health and well-being.”

The UN agency called on those responsible to “release the girls

immediately” and on the government “to ensure their safe release and the

safety of all other schoolchildren in Nigeria.”

The charity Save the Children said it was “horrified” about the news of the

abductions.

“It is unacceptable that attacks on schools and students has become a

recurring scenario in Northern Nigeria,” said Mercy Gichuhi, Save the

Children’s Nigeria director.

“These attack… puts (the children) at risk of never returning to school,

as they or their parents think it’s too dangerous.”

Amnesty International Nigeria said the abductions was “a serious violation

of international humanitarian law.”

“Nigerian authorities must take all measures to return them to safety,

along with all children currently under the custody of armed groups,” the

rights group said on Twitter.

The federal government has not yet commented on the latest kidnappings.

Unrest in northwest Nigeria is just one security challenge facing Africa’s

most populous country, where militants are waging a jihadist insurgency in

the northeast and ethnic tensions are simmering in some southern regions.

Along with central Nigeria, the region has increasingly become a hub for

large criminal gangs who raid villages, killing and abducting residents after

looting and torching homes.

Bandits operate out of camps in Rugu forest, which straddles Zamfara,

Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

Nigerian armed forces have deployed there but attacks and mass kidnappings

persist.

The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known

ideological leanings.

But there are concerns they are being infiltrated by jihadists who are

fighting out a decade-old conflict that has killed more than 30,000 people

and spread into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)