The Daily Telegraph

Armed gang kidnaps 300 girls from Nigerian school

President criticised after gunmen storm town to commit second mass abduction this month

- By Antoaneta Roussi

HUNDREDS of girls were kidnapped by gunmen from a boarding school in northern Nigeria yesterday, in the second mass abduction in little over a week. Reports described how the unidentifi­ed gang stormed the town of Jangebe, in Zamfara state, at around 2am and snatched more than 300 girls, aged 12 to 17, from the Government Girls Secondary School.

Boko Haram, the Islamist group, has previously claimed responsibi­lity for school kidnapping­s, but as of last night, no group had declared itself.

Last week at least 40 people, including 27 students, were abducted in a similar raid on a state school in Niger state, 300 miles south of Zamfara. The captives are yet to be released. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a resident who lives near the school in Jangebe told The Daily Telegraph that hundreds of bandits drove into the town on Toyota Hilux pickup trucks and scores of motorcycle­s, firing guns into the air.

“A first batch went into the school premises, posing as security personnel as some wore the uniforms of security forces,” the resident said. “The second batch followed, going to the dormitorie­s and taking the girls away, as they screamed for help.” The resident said some local vigilantes tried to repel the attack, but were overwhelme­d by the heavily armed gunmen.

A surge in armed violence in Nigeria’s north-west has led to a deteriorat­ing security situation. In December, bandits in Katsina, which borders Zamfara, kidnapped at least 300 schoolboys.

Teacher and student unions have said they are prepared to close schools, as students and teachers are no longer safe. Critics have called on Muhammadu Buhari, the president who was elected in 2015 on a promise to resolve the country’s security failures, to quit.

“Kidnapping for ransom has assumed an industrial and deadly scale never witnessed on the African continent,” a statement by 44 civil society groups said. “Our children are no longer safe in schools and Nigerian citizens and communitie­s are now pauperised by terrorists who extort huge ransoms while murdering their hostages.”

Abubakar Sani Bello, the governor of Niger state, criticised the federal government for leaving states to manage rescue efforts alone. “We have not seen any federal support here since this incident,’’ he said. Nnamdi Obasi, the senior adviser for Nigeria at the Internatio­nal Crisis Group, said there had been a rise in abductions of children for ransom because they attracted media attention, which placed pressure on authoritie­s to negotiate.

Federal and local government­s were torn between engaging and fighting with armed groups, Mr Obasi added. He said the lack of a coherent strategy was “playing into the hands [of criminals], emboldenin­g them to act with increasing impunity and audacity”.

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