Gunmen kidnapped an unknown number of primary-school pupils and teachers Monday in northwestern Nigeria, government officials said, just four days after an abduction in the same state that is yet to be resolved.
Samuel Aruwan, the security commissioner for Kaduna state, said authorities had received reports of kidnapping of pupils and teachers in Birnin Gwari local government area and were obtaining details on the number abducted.
The victims’ families said the gunmen arrived Monday morning, shortly after school gates had opened, and seized six teachers and an unknown number of children. Primary schools in Nigeria usually admit children aged between 6 and 9 years old.
“They came to the village looking like normal people and one of them drew a gun from his caftan and started firing before moving to the school,” said Abduljalal Usman, the elder brother of one of the abducted teachers. “They picked children and drove them away on motorcycles.”
It is the fifth mass school abduction since December in Nigeria’s northwest, where a surge in armed militancy has led to worsening security and kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry.
Since December, heavily armed gangs have abducted then ransomed off more than 800 Nigerian schoolchildren, rocking Africa’s most populous country and drawing calls for urgent action from the U.S., the European Union and Pope Francis. Hundreds of school campuses have been closed across four states for fear of more attacks, leaving an estimated 20 million Nigerian children out of school, the highest total in the world.
On Friday, 39 students were taken from an agriculture college in Kaduna. On Saturday, they appeared in a video surrounded by masked men holding Kalashnikovs and pleaded with the government to pay a ransom of 500 million naira, equivalent to around $1.3 million.
The explosion of kidnappings comes almost seven years after the abduction of 276 girls in 2014 from the town of Chibok, which ignited the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign that prompted intervention by the U.S.
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