Kidnappings in Nigeria: Gunmen kidnap schoolgirls in Zamfara state, government official says

The schoolgirls were taken from their homes by gunmen who raided the public secondary school for girls in Jangebe town, a senior government official with knowledge of the incident told CNN.

A policeman was killed in the attack, according to the source, who declined to be named because he did not have permission to speak officially.

“They came on about 20 motorcycles and took the kidnapped girls to the forest,” the source said. “The bandits arrived around 1:45 a.m. and they operated until around 3 a.m.

“The sad thing is that there is a military checkpoint about four minutes from the school,” he added.

About 500 students are normally at the boarding school, of which about 315 were taken away by the gunmen. Others managed to escape and return to their homes, the source said.

A state police spokesperson told CNN that a detailed statement would be released as they piece together what happened. He declined to comment on the number of abducted students.

Later on Friday, the force said in a statement that a “heavily armed” joint search and rescue operation had been launched.

The distraught parents of some schoolgirls spoke to CNN on Friday, with one claiming her daughter was apparently seized in her pajamas.

“My daughter was among those taken away because I saw her belongings left behind,” Jummai Haruna, mother of Hafsat Abubakar, told CNN.

“I think she was taken away wearing only her nightwear because I found her hijab and school uniform.”

“I miss her so much already. Nobody told me anything about my daughter’s whereabouts. She has always been with me. Her father passed away while I was still pregnant with her. Now I don’t. don’t know what to do anymore, ”Haruna said. .

The dormitory of the public secondary school for girls in Jangebe, Zamfara state, after hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by gunmen

Narama Umar’s niece Asmau Lawali, 14, is also among the missing.

“The government should please help bring our daughters back. There were a lot of parents in school crying. It is very sad, we want our daughters to come back,” Umar told CNN.

Another resident, Safiyanu Jangebi, told CNN he heard gunshots at the time of the kidnapping and described how bystanders clashed with police at the scene.

“There are police everywhere in the school, the young people are angry and are now throwing stones at the police. The governor’s wife was also there. , ‘”said Jangebi.

In a social media statement on Friday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the kidnapping was “inhuman and completely unacceptable”.

“This administration will not succumb to the blackmail of bandits who target innocent schoolchildren pending huge ransom payments,” Buhari said in the statement, which was released by his official spokesperson.

School uniforms were still hanging inside the deserted school dormitory after the attack

He added: “We have the ability to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy losses of innocent villagers and hostages who could be used as human shields by the bandits. .

“Our main goal is to make the hostages safe and sound, alive and well.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also condemned the attack.

“The Secretary-General calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted children and their safe return to their families. He reaffirms that attacks on schools and other educational establishments constitute a serious violation of children’s rights and human rights in general, “his spokesperson said in a statement released Friday.

In a subsequent tweet, Guterres called the kidnapping a “heinous violation” of human rights.

Amnesty International said the incident amounted to a “war crime”.

The latest kidnapping comes just two weeks after at least 42 people, including students, were kidnapped in a similar raid on a public school in Niger State, Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. One student was killed in the attack, while 27 students, three teachers and nine family members were kidnapped. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

UNICEF on Friday expressed concern over reports of the nighttime attack.

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“We are angry and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria.

“This is a blatant violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to have – one that could have lasting effects on their mental health and well-being. We categorically condemn the ‘attack and call on those responsible to release the girls immediately and for the government to take action to ensure their safe release and the safety of all other school children in Nigeria. ”

“Children should feel safe at home and at school at all times – and parents should not have to worry about the safety of their children when they send them to school in the morning,” Hawkins said.

Many parents are worried about the safety of their children in schools in northern Nigeria.

In December, at least 300 schoolchildren were kidnapped by bandits in Katsina, Buhari home state. The students have since been released.

The largest school kidnapping case in the country is that of schoolgirls in Chibok who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014.

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