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Kidnapping Schoolchildren in Nigeria Becomes Big Business

KADUNA, Nigeria—The kidnap for ransom business is booming across northern Nigeria, and schoolchildren are its hottest commodity.

Just before midnight on March 11 gunmen barged into a school around 300 yards from a military training college in Kaduna state and seized dozens of students from their dormitories. It took less than 12 hours for the captors to issue a now familiar demand, through a grainy video posted on Facebook.

“They want 500 million Naira,” said one of the terrified hostages from the Federal College of Forestry, sitting shirtless in a forest clearing, a sum equal to around $1 million. Masked men wielding Kalashnikovs paced among the 39 students—mostly young women—then began to hit them with bullwhips.

“Our life is in danger,” a woman screamed. “Just give them what they want.”

On March 13, the Nigerian army foiled an attempt to kidnap 300 more students at a boarding school less than 50 miles away. The following day, children were among a group of 11 people abducted from the town of Suleja, in Nigeria’s Niger state.

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137 People Killed in Niger in Series of Attacks on Villages Along Mali Border

NIAMEY, Niger — Armed attackers riding motorcycles killed 137 people in coordinated raids on villages in southwestern Niger on Sunday, the government said, making it one of the deadliest days in recent memory in a country ravaged by Islamist violence.

The unidentified assailants struck in the afternoon, raiding three villages and other hamlets in the Tahoua region bordering Mali, the government said on Monday, revising the toll up from a previous estimate by local authorities of about 60 killed.

“By systematically targeting civilians, these armed bandits are reaching a new level of horror and savagery,” it said in a statement, announcing three days of national mourning.

It did not say who authorities believed was behind the attacks, but the violence comes amid a wider security crisis across West Africa’s Sahel region, which is being fueled by militants linked to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and ethnic militias.

a revenge attack on the villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye in Tillabéri.

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