In Zamfara State, north-west Nigeria, hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped on Friday. The armed gunmen stormed the state-run school, Government Girls’ Secondary School, in the early morning hours. The gunmen who raided took the schoolgirls from their hostels.
During the attack, a policeman was killed. One source said, “They came on about 20 motorcycles and they marched the abducted girls into the forest.” The bandits appeared on the scene around 1:45 a.m. and operated until about 3 a.m. He added, “The sad part is that there’s a military checkpoint that is about four minutes away from the school.”
There are normally about 500 students at the boarding school. The gunmen abducted around 315 schoolgirls. Others were able to flee and return to their hostels. A state police spokesman said a statement would be released as they get specifics on what happened. He did not comment on the total number of students kidnapped during the incident. However, late Friday, the police set in motion a heavily-armed joint search and rescue operation.
Parents Deeply Troubled
One distressed parent says her daughter was apparently taken in her pajamas. Jummai Haruna, mother of Hafsat Abubakar says, “I believe she was taken away wearing only her sleeping clothes because I found her hijab and her school uniform.” She added, “I miss her so much already. Nobody has told me anything about her whereabouts of my daughter. She has always been with me. Her father died when I was still pregnant with her. Now I don’t know what to do.”
Narama Umar’s niece, 14-year-old Asmau Lawali, is also among the missing girls. Umar says, “The government should please help bring our daughters back. There were a lot of parents in the school crying. This is very sad; we want our daughters back.”
Safiyanu Jangebi, a local resident, heard gunshots at the time of the kidnapping and described how eyewitnesses clashed with police at the scene. He stated, “There are policemen all over the school, the youths are angry and are now throwing stones at the police. The governor’s wife was also here. They also threw stones at her, chanting ‘Allah will punish you’ and ‘We will not forgive you.’”
A Disturbing Trend
According to Amnesty International, the incident constitutes a ‘war crime’. Nearly two weeks earlier, at least 42 people, including students, were abducted in a similar raid on another state school in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. In the attack, one student was killed and 27 students, three teachers, and nine family members were captured. Many parents in the northern part of Nigeria are concerned about their children’s safety in schools.