Gunmen kidnap school students in Nigeria

In Nigeria, gunmen abducted 73 students just days after another group was released

Gunmen kidnapped 73 students in yet another school attack in northern Nigeria on Wednesday, prompting authorities in Zamfara state to close all primary and secondary schools. The new kidnappings occurred just days after three other groups of hostages were reportedly freed after large ransom payments, raising hopes that other captives will be released soon.

According to local resident Yusuf Mohammed, attackers stormed the Government Day Secondary School in the remote village of Kaya at around noon on Wednesday. According to him, the kidnappers then began shooting into the air before abducting the students. The students are being rescued, according to Mohammed Shehu, a spokesman for the Zamfara state police.

Since December, over 1,000 students have been kidnapped from schools in northern Nigeria. According to UNICEF, while the majority of the students were eventually released, some died or were killed while being in captivity, and about 200 remained hostages before Wednesday’s attack. Officials from the government haven’t said whether they had anything to do with the hostage releases announced on Friday, but it appears that parents from at least one of the schools paid a large ransom.

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According to the Associated Press, many parents in Niger state sold most of their belongings in order to raise funds totaling more than 30 million naira (roughly $72,900). He also mentioned that the Salihu Tanko Islamiya School had sold a plot of land where they had planned an expansion project. Those 90 students were the youngest hostages ever taken from a Nigerian school, with children as young as four years old being kidnapped and held for three months without their parents in the remote forests by gunmen. Authorities said last week that one child, who has not been identified, died as a result of the ordeal.

It’s still unclear whether the kidnappers of the three separate hostage groups released last week were linked or if the timing was just a coincidence. Each event was held in a different state and featured students of various ages. The spate of kidnappings this year has been blamed on “bandits,” or criminals operating out of remote, forested areas of northern Nigeria, according to authorities. The majority of the gunmen are believed to be Fulani young men who used to work as nomadic cattle herders before turning to the lucrative crime of kidnapping children for ransom.

Some fear that the gunmen in the northwest are linked to Islamic militants who have long operated in the northeast and who drew international condemnation in 2014 when they abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, sparking the BringBackOurGirls campaign. More than a hundred of those girls have gone missing, though two have recently been found, both of whom had children with the militants they were forced to marry.