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3 attacks in 3 months, over 600 students kidnapped: Bandits turn gaze on Nigerian schools

The abduction of over 300 students by armed bandits from a girls’ secondary school in Zamfara State, Nigeria’s northwest region, on Friday makes it the third reported attack on a boarding school and abduction of students in the country in less than three months.

Heavily-armed bandits, who have been terrorising communities in Nigeria’s northwest and north-central regions for some years now, have recently intensified their terror, regularly attacking local people and kidnapping for ransom.

On Tuesday, February 16, Niger State authorities said bandits killed 10 people and kidnapped at least 23 others in attacks on two remote villages.

Now they seem to have increasingly turned their gaze on schools.

Nine days ago, it was Government Science Secondary School, Kagara in Niger State, northcentral Nigeria, and on December 11, 2020, it was Government Science Secondary School Kankara, in President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, northwest Nigeria.

The latest incident comes nearly three years after 111 schoolgirls were kidnapped by jihadists in Dapchi, Yobe State, northeast Nigeria, and six years after 276 girls were snatched from Chibok, Borno State, in same northeast Nigeria.

Read Also: Bandits abduct over 300 students from Zamfara girls’ school

Here’s what to know about the three latest attacks.

Jangebe, Zamfara State: February 26, 2021

Exactly nine days after the invasion of Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, and while the government was yet to secure the release of the students abducted in the raid, bandits struck a school in Zamfara State, northwest Nigeria.

At about 1 am on Friday, February 26, bandits invaded Government Girls’ Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State with Hilux vehicles and motorcycles and forcefully evacuated some of the students, according to reports.

Reports suggest that some of the bandits were in uniforms and pretended to be security personnel, then later broke into the students’ hostels and abducted more than 300 of them.

A teacher in the school located on the outskirts of Kwanar Bagare, who confirmed the attack to BBC Hausa, put the number of kidnapped students at about 300.

“More than 300 girls are unaccounted for after a headcount of remaining students,” said a teacher at the school who asked not to be named.

A parent told AFP he had received a call about the incident.

“I’m on my way to Jangebe. I received a call that the school was invaded by bandits who took away schoolgirls. I have two daughters in the school,” said Sadi Kawaye, a parent.

Kagara, Niger State: February 17, 2021

On February 17, 2021, barely two months after the abduction of over 300 students by armed bandits from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara in Katsina State, gunmen raided a state-run school in Nigeria’s north-central region, leaving one student dead and snatching 42 persons, including 27 students, three teachers and 12 of their family members.

Witnesses said the armed men in military fatigues stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, at around 2am on that fateful Wednesday.

Abubakar Mohammed, a Kagara resident, confirmed to CNN that one student was killed by the gunmen.

“At about 2am, they stormed the staff quarters of the school. They forced the children of staffers to take them to the hostel. There they abducted the students along with some members of staff. They killed one of the students in the hostel. His body is now at the police station in Kagara. Police are now everywhere in the school,” Mohammed said.

He said residents of the community were on high alert after receiving a warning about the planned attack.

“About yesterday evening, we heard information that bandits were coming to Kagara but we did not know where they would attack. Later at about 10 pm, we heard that they were just on the outskirts of Kagara, there was panic,” he said.

The attack prompted the Niger State government to order the immediate closure of all boarding schools in four local council areas in the state – Rafi, Munya, Shiroro and Mariga. The Senate also asked President Buhari to declare a state of emergency on insecurity.

In a statement by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, Buhari said he received reports of the brazen attack by gunmen on Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State and that he had directed the Armed Forces and police to ensure the immediate and safe return of all the captives.

He also said he had dispatched to Minna, Niger State capital, a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operation and meet with state officials, community leaders, as well as parents and staff of the school.

However, Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has indicated that the state has been abandoned by the Federal Government in the difficult task of securing the release of the kidnapped students.

“At the moment, we have not seen any federal support here since this incident occurred. Yes, we had a delegation that came to commiserate with us, but we are left to ourselves,” Bello said when he received Orji Uzor Kalu, Senate Chief Whip, who was in Minna to commiserate with the people of the state over the series of security challenges facing the state.

“With or without any support, the state government has already made a commitment to the people of the state to rescue the abducted school children and therefore we will do everything possible to ensure their release unhurt. We will use whatever means and resources available to make sure the children return home safely. However, we don’t have an exact day and when these children will be released but I am very sure very soon,” he said.

Kankara, Katsina State: December 11, 2020

At about 9.40 pm on Friday, December 11, 2020, while Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari was on a week-long visit to his home state of Katsina, bandits armed with assault rifles attacked Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, some 200km (125 miles) from the president’s Daura home, making away with hundreds of students.

Reports said police at the scene returned fire, which allowed some students to run for safety.

On Saturday, December 12, there were chaotic scenes at the school as desperate parents and security personnel gathered to search for about half of the school’s 800 students who were said to be missing, one parent and a school employee told Reuters.

The schoolboys were later released after negotiations with government officials, but the incident triggered global outrage.

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