Gunmen kidnapped 317 girls from a boarding school in northwest Nigeria, police said in a statement Friday, the latest in a rising tide of high-school abductions across Africa’s most populous nation, where kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry.
Armed militants broke into the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara state at around 1 a.m. Friday and packed schoolgirls onto vehicles or walked them toward the nearby Rugu forest, which spreads over three states and hundreds of miles. By morning, community leaders were still working to tally the number of people missing.
Ahmad Abdullahi, a parent, said that his daughter had escaped, but that five of his nieces, between 14 and 17 years old, were among the missing.
The abduction is the second in a little over a week in Nigeria’s northwest, where a surge in armed militancy has led to a worsening breakdown of security.
Dozens of schoolboys and staff are still missing after being kidnapped from another school, the Kagara Government Science College in Niger state on Feb. 17. In December, 344 boys were taken from a school in nearby Katsina and freed after a week. Three of the abducted boys told The Wall Street Journal that the kidnappers told them a ransom had been paid for their release. Government officials denied paying a ransom and said the kidnappers released the schoolboys because the military had surrounded them.
There was no immediate comment from the federal government and no claim of responsibility. Analysts said the culprits were likely one of the heavily armed bandit groups that have become increasingly powerful across swaths of Nigeria’s northwest, and not the jihadist groups based in the northeast.
“Kidnapping for ransom is now the most thriving industry in Nigeria,” said Bulama Bukarti, a terrorism analyst and columnist with the Daily Trust, northern Nigeria’s most popular newspaper.
The latest incidents come six years after the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in the northeastern state of Borno, an abduction that ignited the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The outcry led to the formation of the Safe Schools Initiative, which is backed by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and raised over $30 million to protect schools.
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Source: Wall Street Journal