Cape Town – More than 300 schoolgirls have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in north-western Nigeria on Friday, according to media reports.
The latest kidnapping is reportedly the second mass kidnapping in Nigeria in the past few weeks.
According to various reports on Saturday, police said they believed the girls were taken to a forest after being abducted from their boarding school in Jangebe in Zamfara state.
BBC news reported that a group of gunmen arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe town with pick-up vehicles and motorcycles, a teacher told news site Punch.
Some of the gunmen were dressed as government security forces, the report said, adding that they forced the schoolgirls into the vehicles. Armed gangs often seize schoolchildren for ransom.
In a series of tweets posted late on Friday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the government’s primary objective was to return all the hostages safe, alive, and unharmed.
Buhari said his administration had the capacity to deploy massive forces against the bandits in the villages where they operated, but their limitation was the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.
Buhari said a hostage crisis was a complex situation that required maximum patience to protect the victims from physical harm, or even brutal death, at the hands of their captors.
Buhari’s administration has come under fire in recent months for its handling of the dire security situation in the country, which many observers say is getting worse.
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres said on Saturday morning he was appalled by the abduction of more than 300 schoolgirls, adding that such attacks on schools were a heinous violation of human rights.
“The girls must be released to their families immediately and unconditionally,” said Guterres.
On February 17, armed gunmen raided a state-run school in north-central Nigeria, abducting 27 children.
Amnesty International said the attacks on schools and abductions of children were war crimes and those found to be responsible should be brought to justice for these and other human rights abuses.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the latest incident.
African News Agency (ANA)