Gunmen kidnapped hundreds of youngsters from an Islamic seminary in central Nigeria’s Niger state on Sunday, according to police and neighbors.
The Niger state administration reported on Twitter that 200 children were at the school at the time of the incident, adding that “an unconfirmed number” were abducted.
The kidnapping occurred only one day after 14 students from a university in northeastern Nigeria were released after being held captive for 40 days.
The assailants arrived on motorbikes in Tegina town and began shooting indiscriminately, killing one citizen and injured another before snatching the students from the Salihu Tanko Islamic school, according to Niger state police spokesperson Wasiu Abiodun.
According to one of the school’s employees, who did not want to be identified, the assailants first abducted more than 100 children “but later sent back those they considered too small for them, those between four and 12 years old”
In a series of tweets, the state administration stated that the assailants had freed 11 of the students who were “too small and couldn’t walk” too far.
Armed gangs are terrorising inhabitants in northwest and central Nigeria by looting villages, stealing cattle, and taking people hostage.
Such seizures have become a frequent way for criminals to collect ransoms.
Since December 2020, 730 children and students have been kidnapped, before the attack on Sunday.
On April 20, gunmen known locally as “bandits” stormed Greenfield University in northwestern Nigeria and kidnapped around 20 students, killing a member of the school’s staff in the process.
A few days later, five students were killed in order to force families and the government to pay a ransom.
On Saturday, fourteen of the pupils were freed.
According to local media, the families paid a ransom of 180 million naira ($440,000) for their release.
The criminal gangs have camps in the Rugu forest, which borders the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger.
Their motivations have been purely financial, with no ideological underpinnings, but there is growing worry that they are being infiltrated by jihadists from the northeast, who have been fighting a 12-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state.