Nigerian troops reportedly surround gunmen who kidnap school children
London, Dec. 14, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Nigerian government troops have reportedly surrounded the area where gunmen are believed to be holding schoolchildren hostage in north-western Katsina state.
It is not clear how many students were abducted, and how many ran away during the attack and have not yet been found.
About 800 pupils were enrolled at the all-boys school and about half remain unaccounted for.
The attackers are thought to be seeking ransom, an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
In the latest briefing received by the President from Governor Aminu Bello Masari, with whom he has been in touch, and the Army Chief of Staff, General Tukur Buratai, the military, supported by air power has located the bandits’ enclave at Zango/Paula forest in Kankara…— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) December 12, 2020
The government has blamed the attack on bandits, a loose term for gangs operating in the area.
Amnesty International says more than 1,100 people were killed by bandits in northern Nigeria in the first six months of this year, with the government failing to bring the attackers to justice.
The north-west was affected by kidnappings for ransom, the north-east by an insurgency by militant Islamists, and the south by attacks on oil facilities by groups demanding a greater share of oil revenue for the region, she adds.
Parents have gathered at the school in the Kankara area, pleading with the authorities to help find their children, Reuters news agency reported.
Abubakar Lawal was quoted as saying that two of his three sons at the school, known as the Government Science Secondary School, were missing.
More than 300 children are reportedly still missing, according to an official from the state.
Osama Aminu Maale, a student who escaped the abductors and returned to his parents, told the AFP news agency that hundreds of students had been taken.
“After they took us away we stopped inside the bus where they made the older students take a headcount. We counted 520,” the 18-year-old student said.
The hostages were then split into groups before Mr Maale and four others escaped.
“One of the gunmen hit me repeatedly when I failed to keep up with the rest of the group due to my failing health before he let me trail behind, giving me the chance to escape,” he said.
On Saturday, the military said it had located the gunmen’s hideout in a forest and had exchanged gunfire with them.
In a BBC interview, Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman, said there was a “massive deployment” of troops to rescue the abducted children.
“Military commanders on the ground have the coordinates of where they believe the bandits are, and whoever they are holding. They have surrounded all of that area,” he added.
President Buhari comes from the state, and is currently there on a private visit.
He was being briefed hourly on efforts to rescue the children, Mr Shehu said.
“The criminal elements, bandits, will be crushed. They will be eliminated,” he added.
School authorities are speaking to parents to establish how many students have returned home and how many others could still be scattered across a large area after fleeing the attack.