Nigeria: Gunmen kidnap 300 schoolchildren

One of the teachers at the school in Sikun district, Sani Abdullahi, told local station Kaduna State Media Television that 187 senior students and 125 junior students were missing following the attack. 25 of these children have now returned to the country. According to internal accounts, more than 280 children are still missing. Another source, a local resident, spoke of 280 abductees, AFP news agency reported.

According to the teacher, the building was surrounded by heavily armed men shortly before school started at 8am on Thursday. The criminals forced around 700 students and teachers to go to a nearby forest area. However, many children and adults managed to escape. After some time, a local vigilante group tried to pursue the culprits, the teacher said. One member of the surveillance team was killed.

“No Child Left Behind”

Official figures from the police and other authorities are still pending. Kaduna Governor Uba Sani confirmed the incident but did not provide any casualty figures. “At this stage, we cannot say how many children or students have been abducted,” Sani told reporters in Gurgaon, adding: “No child will be held back.” President Bola Tinubu and the National Security Adviser have also been informed.

APA/AFP/AFPTV

Photo of the affected school in Kaduna State

Trafficking has increased over the past few months

A Kuriga local council member tearfully lamented the lack of security in the area. The area where the school is located is considered to be a high crime area. In recent months, small groups, particularly women and children, have been repeatedly abducted in Kaduna State. After weeks or months in hidden forest camps, almost all were released after paying ransoms.

According to SB Morgen, an economic and security consultancy, Nigeria's faltering economy, rising inflation and high unemployment have made ransom money a major driver of human trafficking. In the twelve months from July 2022 to June 2023 alone, according to SP Morgan, 3,620 people were abducted in 582 kidnapping incidents, most of them in Kaduna.

Amnesty: “Schools should be places of safety”

Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the kidnappings in Kaduna and called on the authorities to take action to prevent attacks on schools. “Schools should be places of safety, and no child should have to choose between their education and their life,” Company X said via Twitter.

In addition to jihadists in the northeast, Africa's most populous state struggles with criminal gangs in the northwest and intercommunal violence in the country's center. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was elected last year on a promise to do something about the worsening security situation. However, according to critics, not much happened after that.

People with protest placards in Kuriga, Nigeria

AP

“Can't even sleep during the day”: Protests in Gurgaon after recent kidnappings

Mass kidnapping at the end of February

At the end of February, there were already mass kidnappings of internally displaced people in the northeastern state of Borno. According to United Nations estimates, more than 200 people have been abducted. In this case also the exact figure is not known. If the speculations of around 300 students being abducted this time are confirmed, it would be the biggest abduction from a school since 2021.

Since 2014, Islamist terrorist fighters Boko Haram and criminal groups have abducted large numbers of women and children in the north of the country, home to about 220 million people. These include extortion, forced recruitment into armed groups or sexual violence.

Almost exactly ten years ago, in April 2014, the abduction of 276 students from a boarding school in Chibok caused global horror. Many more girls are missing.

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are planning an anti-terrorist group

But Nigeria is not alone in grappling with the threat of Islamic terrorist groups. The West African states of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso now want to form a joint army to fight against such influences. The Nigerian Army Chief of Staff, General Moussa Salau Baramou, said “we must be ready for action as quickly as possible”.

The military has been in power in Niger since July, in Burkina Faso since 2022, and in Mali in 2021, the most recent coup. All three states broke with the former colonial power, France, which previously operated with military assistance. Niger and Burkina Faso have turned to the Russian mercenary Wagner. Since then, the security situation in all three countries has threatened to deteriorate significantly.

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