287 students kidnapped from Nigerian school nearly a decade after Chibok abduction

The remaining wares of students of Bethel Baptist High School are seen inside the school premises as parent of abducted students pray for the return of their children whom were abducted by gunmen in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna state, northwest Nigeria on July 14, 2021.
The remaining wares of students of Bethel Baptist High School are seen inside the school premises as parent of abducted students pray for the return of their children whom were abducted by gunmen in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna state, northwest Nigeria on July 14, 2021. | KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images

Militants armed with AK-47s attacked a school in Kaduna state, Nigeria, kidnapping at least 287 students, marking the second large-scale abduction in Nigeria within a week and underscoring a deepening security crisis in the region.

In the early hours of Thursday, armed assailants encircled the government school in Kuriga town, seizing students as the day began, The Associated Press reported Friday.

Initially, authorities reported over 100 students kidnapped, but a subsequent headcount by headteacher Sani Abdullahi revealed 287 missing. Around 187 of the abductees are secondary school students and 100 are in primary school, according to Abdullahi.

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Gov. Uba Sani visited the site and pledged concerted efforts to ensure the students' safe return.

"The Kaduna State Government and Security Agencies are working round the clock to ensure the safe return of the school children abducted in Kuriga community, Chikun Local Government," he posted on X. "I have received strong assurances from the President and National Security Adviser that no stone will be left unturned to bring back the children."

On March 1, Boko Haram militants abducted about 200 women and girls living in displacement camps in Borno state near the Cameroon border — a frequent operation zone for the group, according to persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Additionally, the assailants set ablaze shelters and destroyed homes and assets in Ajari town, causing losses in the millions of naira.

The pattern of abductions, frequent since the kidnapping of 276 mostly Christian Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014, has intensified in northern Nigeria, with armed groups targeting rural communities for ransom.

"I have received briefings from security chiefs on the two incidents in Borno and Kaduna, and I am confident that the victims will be rescued," Nigerian President Bola Tinubu tweeted.

"Nothing else is acceptable to me and the waiting family members of these abducted citizens. Justice will be decisively administered. To this end, I have directed security and intelligence agencies to immediately rescue the victims and ensure that justice is served against the perpetrators of these abominable acts."

The president said he sympathized with the families impacted and assured them "they would soon be reunited with their loved ones."

A teacher who managed to escape Thursday's abduction told the media bandits surrounded the school premises, and they had nowhere to run. 

"Then, the bandits asked us to enter the bush, so we obeyed them because there were many, and the pupils, about 700, were following us," he said. "So, when we entered the bush, I was lucky to escape alongside many others."

"I returned to the village and reported what happened to the community," he said. "So, immediately our vigilante and personnel of KADVIS followed the bandits, but the vigilante did not succeed. In fact, the bandits killed one of the vigilantes."

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, though suspicion often falls on herder militias involved in longstanding regional conflicts.

The governor's visit to Kuriga, 55 miles from the capital, coincided with a broadened search operation.

The resurgence of kidnappings, notably near the Chibok abduction's 10th anniversary, highlights the persistent threat of groups like Boko Haram, known for opposing Western education. More than 100 of the schoolgirls — who are now women — abducted in 2014 remain in captivity nearly a decade later. The families of these hostages "hardly ever receive updates on the government’s efforts to release them," according to persecution watchdog Open Doors

The ongoing violence has prompted calls for Nigeria to be labeled by the U.S. State Department as a country of particular concern by international bodies, citing widespread religious persecution and a significant toll on Christian communities.

"The continued attacks show the lack of efficacy of the current Nigerian policies as well as the international policies in place to protect human rights and basic safety," said the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern in a statement.

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said that for over a decade, terrorist groups, including a militia comprising assailants primarily of Fulani ethnicity, have "conducted violent attacks and abductions for ransom across Nigeria on an almost daily basis while eliciting a wholly inadequate response from the authorities."

Thomas urged the government to "become far more proactive in addressing Nigeria's critical security situation."

Despite President Tinubu's election promises, critics like Oluwole Ojewale from the Institute for Security Studies, note no significant improvement in safety, according to AP. 

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