The Hamilton Spectator

Search continues for nearly 300 Nigerian students abducted


Rashidat Hamza is in despair. All but one of her six children are among the nearly 300 students abducted from their school in Nigeria’s northwest, riddled with Islamic extremists and armed gangs.

It has been more than two days after her children — ages seven to 18 — went to school in the remote town of Kuriga in Kaduna state only to be kidnapped by gunmen. She was still in shock Saturday.

Authoritie­s said at least 100 children aged 12 or younger were among the abductees in the state known for violent killings lawlessnes­s and dangerous roads where people get regularly snatched.

“We don’t know what to do, but we believe in God,” Hamza told The Associated Press during a visit to the town.

The mass kidnapping in Kuriga was the third in northern Nigeria since last week; a group of gunmen abducted 15 children from a school in another northweste­rn state, Sokoto, before dawn Saturday, and a few days earlier 200 people, mostly women and children displaced by conflict, were kidnapped in northeaste­rn Borno State.

The kidnapping­s are a stark reminder of the security crisis plaguing Africa’s most populous country.

No group claimed responsibi­lity for any of the recent abductions. But Islamic extremists waging an insurgency in the northeast are suspected of carrying out the kidnapping in Borno. Locals blame the school abductions on herders who are in conflict with the settled communitie­s.

It’s not the first time for a student kidnapping in Nigeria to shock the world. In 2014, Islamic extremists abducted more than 200 schoolgirl­s from Borno’s Chibok, sparking the global #BringBackO­urGirls social media campaign. A decade later, at least 1,400 Nigerian students have so far been abducted from their schools in similar circumstan­ces. Some are still held captive, including nearly 100 of the Chibok girls.

Recalling Thursday’s kidnapping, Nura Ahmad, a teacher, told the AP that students were just settling into their classrooms at the government primary and secondary school when gunmen “came in dozens, riding on bikes and shooting sporadical­ly.”

The LEA Primary and Secondary School, one of the few educationa­l facilities in this area, sits by the road just at the entrance of the town, tucked in the middle of forests and savannah. Even with its decaying roof and wrecked walls, it gave parents hope for a better future for their children.

Nigerian police and soldiers headed into the forests Friday to search for the missing children, but combing the wooded expanses of northweste­rn Nigeria could take weeks, observers said.

Some villagers like Lawan Yaro, whose five grandchild­ren are among the abducted, say their hopes are already fading.

People are used to the region’s insecurity, “but it has never been in this manner,” he said.

“We are crying, looking for help from the government and God, but it is the gunmen that will decide to bring the children back,” Yaro said. “God will help us.”

 ?? SUNDAY ALAMBA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? A child sits at a window of a classroom at the LEA Primary and Secondary School in Kuriga, Kaduna, Nigeria, on Sunday.
SUNDAY ALAMBA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A child sits at a window of a classroom at the LEA Primary and Secondary School in Kuriga, Kaduna, Nigeria, on Sunday.

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