The number of students kidnapped Sunday in a private Muslim school in central Nigeria, stands at 136, according to a report by the authorities, who are struggling to stem the kidnappings of schoolchildren and students in the region.
“The government of the State of Niger (Center-West) confirms that the number of students kidnapped by bandits at the Muslim school Salihu Tanko, located in Tegina, is 136 “, he said on his Twitter account.
On Sunday afternoon, many armed men arrived on motorbikes in the town of Tegina where they started shooting, killing one resident and injuring another, before abducting the children.
About 200 children were in the school at the time of the attack. Some had managed to escape, while the kidnappers had released several, aged 4 to 12, because “too small to walk,” one of the school officials told AFP.
Since the attack, parents of kidnapped students have been sitting in front of the school waiting for news of their children. Tuesday some were tears.
“I call on the government to do everything to protect its citizens and our children above all”Sa’idu Umar, the father of one of the abducted children, told AFP. “We hope the authorities will do more to bring our children back.”
“The government is doing its best to ensure the safe return of the children,” authorities retorted to parents on Wednesday evening. Security forces, however, act “with caution in prosecuting bandits to avoid collateral damage”, he says.
The state authorities are also asking the federal government for help in order to “better equip them“to be able to face these bandits.
This attack is the latest in a series of kidnappings of schoolchildren and students in recent months in central and northwestern Nigeria, where for a decade armed gangs have terrorized populations, looting villages, stealing cattle and practicing mass kidnappings for ransom.
Without counting the schoolchildren kidnapped on Sunday, at least 730 children and adolescents had already been abducted since December 2020.
Several of these kidnappings had made international headlines and caused worldwide stir, especially at the end of February, when 279 teenage girls, aged 12 to 16, were kidnapped and then released five days later in Zamfara state. , in northwestern Nigeria.
This black series began in December 2020, with the kidnapping of 344 boys from their boarding school in Kankara (North). They were released after a week, after negotiations.
The increase in these kidnappings raises fears of a worsening dropout rate, particularly of girls, in these poor and rural regions which already have the highest rate of children not attending school in Nigeria. Faced with this situation, many states have in fact taken the decision to temporarily close the boarding schools.
Nigeria has been in the throes of kidnappings for decades, with criminals mostly targeting wealthy and influential men. But in recent years, they have targeted even the poorest and armed bands have launched their attacks on major roads in particular, where travelers are regularly kidnapped.
In early May, hundreds of people blocked a highway outside Abuja to protest the sharp rise in kidnappings for ransom on the outskirts of the federal capital.
Criminal gangs carry out attacks from their camps in Rugu Forest, located on the borders of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
The attackers are initially motivated by greed, even if some bandits have pledged allegiance to jihadist groups present in northeastern Nigeria, hundreds of kilometers away.