Students from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger were indiscriminately shot at and abducted Sunday by a group of “armed bandits,” state police said in a statement.
At least one person was confirmed dead in the latest in a string of school kidnapping raids the country has seen this year.
“Armed bandits on board motorcycles in their numbers invaded Tegina town, Rafi LGA, shooting indiscriminately and abducted a yet to be ascertained number of children at Salihu Tanko Islamic school,” state police said.
“The bandits shot one person dead in the process,” the police statement added. According to state police officials, tactical teams were “immediately mobilized” as part of effort to rescue the victims. “The Command calls for calm as the Police and other security agencies shall do everything humanly possible to ensure that the children are rescued unhurt,” state police said.
A spokeswoman for Niger State Government, Mary Noel-Berje, told CNN on Monday that at least 11 of the children abducted during the raid were later set free.
“11 children were released because of their tenderness…the very little ones that couldn’t go through the bush path, the kidnappers’ escape route, were released,” Noel-Berje said.
According to the government spokeswoman, the school targeted in the attack comprises of kindergarten, elementary and middle school age children.
“The government is working to ascertain the number of children kidnapped. A house-to-house count is ongoing,” she added.
The latest kidnapping in Tegina comes three months after 42 people, including students, were seized by gunmen in Kagara, which is located around 18 km from Tegina.
It also comes days after students from Greenfield University, Kaduna, were freed. Five of the students were killed by their abductors while in captivity.
Kidnapping has become one of the major security challenges in Nigeria and hundreds of students have been abducted in different mass kidnappings in northern Nigeria since December. Some state governors regularly pay ransoms to secure the safety of victims but rarely admit to doing so.
Marauding groups, known locally as bandits, operate from forest enclaves in northwestern Nigeria, where they organize attacks and kidnappings on rural areas and Nigeria’s major road networks.
Between June 2011 and the end of March 2020, an estimated $18.34 million was paid in ransoms, according to Lagos-based SBM Intelligence in a report last year titled “The economics of the kidnap industry in Nigeria.”