Hundreds of students have been missing in Nigeria for 3 days. They are students at a school in the Katsina region, in the north of the country. The Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. 333 students have disappeared, some as young as 10 years old.
We are behind what happened in Katsina, “said Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in an audio message published by the Nigerian news portal HumAngle.
The terrorist organization has indicated that it is an attack on Western education. It is proof that the radical group has extended its influence to the northwest.
“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage non-Islamic practices, as Western education is not the type of education allowed by Allah and his Holy Prophet,” Shekau said.
According to HumAngle, the Boko Haram announcement makes the kidnapping of students the group’s first major operation in northwestern Nigeria, as it tends to focus its attacks on the northeast of the country.
Last Friday’s attack took place at night on the premises of the Government Science Secondary School, a boys’ school located in the city of Kankara, in the state of Katsina.
This year hundreds of people have died due to different attacks in the northwest area of what the national authorities call “bandits”. So far it has not been clear whether these criminal groups had ties to Boko Haram.
In the past, the acts of jihadists in the northwest were often limited to ambushes of security officers and kidnappings on a smaller scale for ransom.
The governor of Katsina, Aminu Bello Masari, met yesterday with the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, in the city of Daura, in the same state, to address the event, according to a statement issued by the spokesman for the head of state, Garba Shehu.
The governor “said that the kidnappers had established contact and that they were already discussing safety and the return (of the students) to their homes,” said the official note, without specifying who the perpetrators of the action were, noting a “steady progress” to rescue them “unscathed.”
However, Boko Haram sources assured HumAngle that they have neither made demands nor have conditions been set for the release of the students.
The parents of the missing students have called on authorities to step up efforts to ensure their children are rescued as soon as possible.
On social media, some Nigerians use the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys (“Bring back our boys”), in a clear allusion to the international campaign “Bring back our girls” used after the 2014 abduction of 276 children under the age of one interned in Chibok – northeast of Nigeria – at the hands of Boko Haram.
To this day, the whereabouts of at least 112 of them are still unknown.
Boko Haram has been killing tens of thousands of people in the northeast of the country since 2009. What has meant the displacement of two million people.