Dozens of schoolboys and staff were kidnapped by gunmen in north-central Nigeria on Wednesday, according to local officials, the latest in a string of high-school abductions that have roiled the northern states of Africa’s most populous country.
The gunmen stormed the Government Science College in the Kagara district of Niger state around 2 a.m. and overwhelmed the school security, killing one student before marching students and staff into the sprawling Rugu forest, according to officials. “The situation is very serious…Some 27 students, 3 staff and 12 members of their family were kidnapped,” said Abubakar Sani Bello, the governor of Niger state.
Schools across the region were closed and surveillance aircraft were dispatched to scour the forest, as security forces hunted for the missing on foot.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but analysts said the culprits were likely one of the heavily armed bandit groups that have become increasingly powerful across swaths of Nigeria’s northwest and not the jihadist groups based in the northeast.
The news comes as Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari has quietly dropped his claim that the country’s insurgencies are technically defeated and conceded that the nation is in “a state of emergency.” The country, one of Africa’s strongest armies and a strong U.S. counterterrorism ally, is struggling to contain multiple threats: a 10-year jihadist rebellion and swelling banditry and lawlessness that have metastasized into a conflict of overlapping militant groups.