Armed militants kidnapped 317 girls from a boarding school early Friday morning in northwest Nigeria following a wave of mass abductions in Africa’s most populous nation.
Nasiru Abdullahi told The Associated Press his daughters, ages 10 and 13, are among the 300 girls abducted from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe.
“It is disappointing that even though the military have a strong presence near the school they were unable to protect the girls,” Abdullahi told the AP. “At this stage, we are only hoping on divine intervention.”
The AP reports that Musa Mustapha, a local resident, said gunmen attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint to prevent soldiers from defending the school during the hourslong raid.
The attack began after 1 a.m. as the militants forced some girls into vehicles while others led by foot into the Rugu forest, which spans hundreds of miles across three states, The Wall Street Journal reported.
An unnamed source told CNN that a police officer was killed in the attack.
UNICEF's Nigeria representative, Peter Hawkins, called on the Nigerian government to make schools safe, expressing anger and sadness at “yet another brutal attack.”
“This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through — one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and well-being,” Hawkins said in a statement. “We utterly condemn the attack and call on those responsible to release the girls immediately and for the government to take steps to ensure their safe release and the safety of all other schoolchildren in Nigeria.”
Human Rights Watch, an organization that exposes human rights abuses worldwide, tweeted HRW Nigeria researcher Anietie Ewang's comment about the attack: “The repeated school abductions in Nigeria’s northwest are a worrying sign that children have become prime targets for criminal gangs seeking recognition of financial gain.”
“Strong action is required from the authorities to turn the tide & keep schools safe,” Ewang added on a post on Twitter.
This school attack happened less than two weeks after a similar attack in northwest Nigeria where gunmen abducted 42 individuals, including 27 schoolboys, from the Government Science College in Kagara on Feb. 17. The 42 kidnapped students, parents and teachers are still being held captive, according to CBN.
Kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry for terrorist groups in Nigeria, according to The Journal.
Many children in Nigeria fear going to school due to the terrorist threat at education centers.
On Dec. 11, Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups, kidnapped as many as 500 schoolboys in an attack on a boarding school. The terrorist group later freed 344 boys after security forces negotiated their release, but many of the boys remain missing.
Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, told The Christian Post in an interview at the time that Boko Haram is known for grooming the young boys they capture to become terrorists. The terrorist group’s opposition to education leads to a vicious cycle that breeds more terrorism.
Laugesen also accused the Nigerian government of allowing militant groups to continue to terrorize its citizens because the country receives a lot of international aid to fight terrorism.
The recent attacks on schools follow the kidnapping of the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014, which gained international attention with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Over 112 of the Chibok schoolgirls remain missing.
The Global Terrorism Index ranks Nigeria as the third country most affected by terrorism in the world. It reports that from 2001 to 2019, there were over 22,000 killed by acts of terror. Nigeria also leads the world in the number of Christians killed.
In December, Nigeria became the first democratic nation to be added to the U.S. State Department's list of "countries of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the update to the annual list of state actors that have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”