Desperate parents gather at a Nigerian school to beg authorities to find the more than 300 boys still missing two days after an attack by armed men
Desperate parents have gathered at a secondary school in Nigeria on Sunday, begging authorities to locate the hundreds of boys abducted from there by gunmen.
While exact figures are yet to be determined, more than 300 students from the all-boys Government Science school in Kankara in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state are thought to be missing after being taken by men reportedly armed with AK-47s on Friday night.
Abubakar Lawal travelled to the school from Zaria, a city 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Kanara. Two of his three sons who attend the institution were among the missing.
‘From yesterday I was here, praying that the almighty Allah should rescue our people,’ he told Reuters news agency from outside the dusty school grounds.
One of his missing sons, 17-year-old Buhari, was named after President Muhammadu Buhari, a native of Katsina state.
Desperate parents have gathered at a secondary school in Nigeria on Sunday, begging authorities to locate the hundreds of boys abducted from there by gunmen
Yahaya, a 17-year-old student, told Reuters he escaped on Saturday. He gave only one name for fear of reprisals.
He said he sneaked away while the kidnappers transferred students to different locations in a forest close to the school.
‘We met someone with a motorcycle who brought us to a nearby village,’ He said. ‘From there someone brought us to Kankara.’
He added that group leaders told the men not to harm them.
President Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu issued a statement saying the military, supported by airpower, had located the bandits’ enclave in Zango/Paula forest in the Kankara area, and there have been exchanges of gunfire in an ongoing operation.
‘Our prayers are with the families of the students, the school authorities and the injured,’ said the president’s statement.
It did not say if any students have been rescued.
While exact figures are yet to be determined, more than 300 students from the all-boys Government Science school in Kankara in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state are thought to be missing after being taken by men reportedly armed with AK-47s on Friday night. Pictured: Anxious relatives await news outside the school
It is not clear exactly how many boys have been taken or how many normally attend the school.
State spokesman Abdul Labaran has said authorities ‘will not rest’ until the children are found, adding that military and intelligence chiefs were in Kankara to lead the rescue.
He said 321 students were missing, but added that some could have gone home to other states.
Katsina State police spokesman Gambo Isah earlier gave the total number of missing children as about 400 and said that about 600 boys were thought to have attended the school.
State governor Aminu Bello Masari gave different figures, saying that 839 boys attended the school and 333 were yet to be accounted for.
Relatives have been waiting at the school and praying for the safe return of their children
‘The police, Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force are working closely with the school authorities to ascertain the actual number of the missing and/or kidnapped students,’ said Isah.
‘Search parties are working with a view to find or rescue the missing students.’
Masari said that the exact numbers were still being worked out as boys were ‘still coming out of the forest’ having either escaped the gunmen or fled and hid when the attack began.
‘Up until this moment, no one can give a precise figure of the children abducted,’ he said.
It is not clear exactly how many boys have been taken or how many normally attend the school as officials and escapees have given varying figures. Pictured: Relatives gather at the school
Osama Aminu Maale was one of the students who escaped the abductors and returned to his parents.
‘There were a total of 520 of us that were taken by the gunmen from the school,’ the 18-year old student, told AFP news agency on the phone.
‘After they took us away we stopped inside the bus where they made the older students take a headcount. We counted 520,’ he said.
The hostages were split into groups and before Maale and four others escaped.
‘One of the gunmen hit me repeatedly when I failed to keep up with the rest of the group due to my failing health before he let me trail behind, giving me the chance to escape’, he said.
All state schools in Katsina have been ordered to close because officials do not know the attackers’ motives, the education commissioner said.
UNICEF condemned the ‘brutal attack’ on the school in a statement on Sunday, calling for the ‘immediate and unconditional release of all children and their return to their families’.
The military has now located the group, according to a statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, but all relatives can do for now is wait
Attacks by armed gangs, widely known as bandits, are common throughout northwestern Nigeria.
The groups attack civilians, stealing or kidnapping them for ransom. Islamist militants are more common in the northeast.
There is growing anger with the precarious security situation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.
Late last month, Islamist militants killed scores of farmers in northeastern Borno, beheading some of them.
Nigeria’s most serious school attack came in April 2014, when members of the jihadist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school dormitory in Chibok in northeastern Borno State.
About 100 of the girls are still missing.
UNICEF said it was ‘deeply concerned about these acts of violence.’
‘Attacks on schools are a violation of children’s rights. This is a grim reminder that abductions of children and widespread grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in northern Nigeria.’
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