School Raids and Kidnappings Increases in Nigeria

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FILE PHOTO: A view shows an empty classroom at the school in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, where dozens of school girls went missing after an attack on the village by Boko Haram,

Gunmen believed to belong to a criminal gang called “bandits” stormed a school in central Nigeria, killing one student and kidnapping hundreds of others along with some teachers, sources said Wednesday.

President Buhari condemned the abduction and ordered security forces to coordinate an operation to rescue the students. “The President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement without giving details on the number of students missing.

This is not the only attack this week. Last Tuesday another armed gang dressed in military uniforms stormed the Government Science College (GSC) in the town of Kagara in Niger state before hauling students into a nearby forest. Heavily-armed gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging.

Only two months ago, more than 300 students were kidnapped in Kankara, in nearby Katsina state. The boys were later released after negotiations with government officials, but the incident sparked global outrage.

Kidnap gangs in Nigeria’s northwest and central states are just one challenge in Africa’s most populous country where security forces face jihadists in the northeast, ethnic clashes in central regions and pirate attacking container ships in the south. The region is increasingly a hub for criminal gangs who raid villages, killing and abducting residents after looting and torching homes.

Bandits are known to hide in camps in Rugu forest, which straddles Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states. Despite the deployment of troops, deadly attacks persist. The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings. But there is growing concern they are being infiltrated by jihadists from the northeast who are waging a decade-old insurgency to establish an Islamic state.

The latest kidnapping incident comes nearly three years after 111 schoolgirls were snatched by jihadists in Dapchi and six years after 276 girls were taken from Chibok in a raid that shocked the world. “Nigeria has to declare a state of emergency on insecurity,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development think tank.”The government must secure the schools and urgently too, or else (the) Chibok, Dapchi and Kankara school raids will encourage others to do worse.”

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