By Vatican News staff writer
Gunmen have abducted dozens of students in northwestern Nigeria, in the latest of a series of attacks on schools targeting pupils, authorities said.
The attackers swooped on Government Day Secondary School located in the village of Kaya, Zamfara state, on Wednesday morning, seizing about 73 students.
Local police authorities say that they have launched a rescue operation, and are working in collaboration with the military to ensure the return of the students.
Since December, more than 1000 students have been kidnapped from schools, especially in northern Nigeria. Gunmen, locally referred to as “bandits” have demanded large ransoms from parents for the release of their children.
While most of them have been released following payment, some have died or have been killed while in captivity.
Kidnappings for ransom in Nigeria were first carried out by the Boko Haram extremist Islamist group but the tactic has now been adopted by other criminal gangs.
Just last Friday, scores of children who had been abducted at gunpoint at a school in Niger state, north-central Nigeria, were freed and handed over to their families.
News reports indicate that the parents paid a ransom of about 70 million naira ($140,000) and gave motorbikes in ransom to the kidnappers.
Zamfara is one of four states in northern Nigeria that have introduced restrictions to curb the activities of bandits, including limiting motorbike traffic and suspending cattle markets and transport.
The increasing rate of abductions has forced authorities to close down dozens of schools in Nigeria’s northern region to prevent further attacks on educational institutions which seem to be an easy target for the armed bandits.