Gunmen kidnap primary school pupils in Nigeria's Kaduna state

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Kaduna, Mar. 15 (BNA): Gunmen on motorbikes stormed a primary school in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kaduna and kidnapped pupils and teachers, a state official and residents said on Monday - the fifth school abduction in three months of escalating violence.

Kaduna state’s security commissioner, Samuel Aruwan, said its government has received reports of the latest abduction on Monday in the Birnin Gwari area, Reuters reported.

“The Kaduna state government is currently obtaining details on the actual number of pupils and teachers reported to have been kidnapped and will issue a comprehensive statement as soon as possible,” Aruwan said in a statement.

It was the first abduction of elementary school children in a proliferating wave of attacks on educational institutions by armed gangs that has seen abductions of more than 700 people since December.

Birnin Gwari headteacher Ma’aruf Ibrahim told Reuters he was en route to the school when he was alerted by phone by a teacher who escaped the kidnappers. He said around 50 pupils were in class when the incident occurred around 8:50 a.m. (0750 GMT).

Residents, some of whom are parents of pupils taken away, described how gunmen on motorcycles, shooting sporadically, stormed the school and seized children and teachers.

Sarkin Mota, a resident, said his son was kidnapped along with three of his teachers.

Another resident, Yahaya Usman, said the gunmen snatched some pupils and put them on their motorbikes, while ordering others to trek on foot into the bush.

A parent who did not want to be named for fear of endangering his child’s life said he saw gunmen arrive on 12 motorcycles and watched “helpless” as they grabbed his 8-year-old son.

Nigeria’s kidnapping scourge began with the seizure of 270 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram in 2014. Around 100 of the schoolgirls have never been found.

Armed criminal gangs in Nigeria’s widely lawless north have since carried out many copycat attacks seeking ransom.

The presidency said late in February that President Muhammadu Buhari had urged state governments to “review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously”.

Attempts by the military and police to tackle the gangs have had little success, while many worry that state authorities are making the situation worse by letting kidnappers go unpunished, paying them off or providing incentives.

Nigeria’s federal government has said it will “take out” abductors after criticising local deals to free victims.

A presidency spokesman said he did not have the details of the kidnapping.

Armed men attempted to kidnap more students in Kaduna state overnight on Sunday, as 39 others from an earlier attack in the state remain missing.

The rampant banditry has become a political problem for Buhari, a retired general and former military ruler who has faced mounting criticism over the rise in violent crime, and replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this year.

Buhari held talks with security officials and regional elders last week about Nigeria’s multiple security challenges. Afterwards, national security adviser Babagana Monguno said the government would take a tough stance against criminal gangs.