Gunmen kidnap 73 students in latest attack on Nigeria school

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – Gunmen kidnapped 73 students in another school attack in northwestern Nigeria on Wednesday, police said and ordered authorities to close all elementary and secondary schools across Zamfara state.

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – Gunmen kidnapped 73 students in another school attack in northwestern Nigeria on Wednesday, police said and ordered authorities to close all elementary and secondary schools across Zamfara state.

The new abductions came just days after three other hostage groups were released, when reports of large ransom payments were made, raising hopes that other prisoners may soon be released.

Attackers raided Government Day Secondary School in the remote village of Kaya on Wednesday lunchtime, local resident Yusuf Mohammed told The Associated Press. The kidnappers then started shooting in the air before taking the students, he said.

Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said an operation to rescue the students was underway.

More than 1,000 students have been kidnapped from schools in northern Nigeria since December. While most students were eventually released, some have died or been killed in captivity, and about 200 remained hostage prior to Wednesday’s attack, according to UNICEF.

Government officials have not commented on whether they played a role in the hostage releases announced on Friday, but it appears that parents from at least one of these schools paid a hefty ransom.

The principal at one of the schools in Niger state told AP that many parents sold most of their property to raise funds totaling more than 30 million naira (about $ 72,900). Salihu Tanko Islamiya School also sold a piece of land on which they had planned an expansion project, he added.

These 90 released students were the youngest hostage ever to be taken by a school in Nigeria. Children as young as 4 years old were taken to the remote forests by armed men and detained without their parents for three months. One child who was not identified died during the ordeal, authorities said last week.

It remains unclear whether the kidnappers of the three separate hostage groups were linked last week or whether the simultaneous releases were just accidental. Each took place in a different state and included students of different ages.

So far, authorities have attributed this year’s flood of kidnappings to “bandits” or criminals operating in remote forest areas in northern Nigeria. Most of the gunmen are believed to be young men of the Fulani ethnic group, who traditionally worked as nomadic herders before embarking on the profitable crime of kidnapping children for ransom.

Some fear that the armed men in the northwest are in some way connected to the long-standing Islamic militants in the northeast who were internationally convicted in 2014 when they kidnapped 276 school girls in Chibok in 2014, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

More than 100 of these girls are still missing, although two did not show up until years later, both of whom had children with the militants they had to marry.

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Associate press journalist Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

Chinedu Asadu, The Associated Press

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