By Vatican News staff writer
A Catholic priest of the Maiduguri diocese, Rev. Fr. Elijah Juma Wada, has reportedly been kidnapped by armed men suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect.
Local news reports say that the incident happened along the Damboa-Maiduguri road in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria last Wednesday.
Fr. Wada, who hails from Michika, Adamawa state, is said to have been traveling from Buma Parish in Shani to Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, when he was abducted.
The faithful in the diocese were invited to pray for the safe release of Fr. Wada during Mass on Sunday.
140 schoolchildren kidnapped
Separately, in another instance of a recent spate of abductions from schools and universities in Nigeria, a group of gunmen kidnapped dozens of children from a school in the northwest of the country, authorities said.
The gunmen stormed the Bethel Baptist High School in Damishi town, Chikun local government area in Kaduna state, in the early hours of Monday, taking away at least 140 students, according to reports.
A Police spokesperson said that the gunmen overpowered the school’s security guards and made their way into the students’ hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest.
The spokesperson however noted that security forces succeeded in rescuing 26 students and a female teacher safely while in pursuit of the attackers. He added that the rescue operation is still ongoing to ensure that all the victims are safely returned.
Kidnappings in Nigeria
Monday’s attack on Bethel Baptist High School was at least the fourth mass school kidnapping in Kaduna state since December.
The kidnapping of Nigerian school children first drew international attention in 2014 when the Boko Haram extremist group snatched nearly 270 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok, Borno State.
Armed bandits in Nigeria are making kidnapping for ransom a fast-growing industry, with kidnappers targeting schools and universities, roads, private residents and more recently, even hospitals.
In the early hours of Sunday, gunmen abducted another 6 people, including a one-year-old child from a hospital in northern Kaduna state.
Nigeria’s security forces have been battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast of the country since 2009 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and has displaced over 2 million people.