Gunmen have raided a college in north-west Nigeria and kidnapped 39 students, in the latest mass abduction targeting a school.
The gang stormed the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Kaduna state, at about 9.30pm (2030 GMT) on Thursday, shooting indiscriminately before taking students.
The Kaduna college was said to have about 300 male and female students – mostly aged 17 and older – at the time of the attack.
Kaduna state commissioner for internal security, Samuel Aruwan, said 39 of the students were missing while the army was able to rescue 180 people after a battle with the gunmen.
“Further checks in the wake of the attack by armed bandits indicate that 39 students are currently unaccounted for, including 23 females and 16 males,” Aruwan said in a statement late on Friday.
He had initially said 30 students were unaccounted for.
Aruwan said the state government “is maintaining close communication with the management of the college as efforts are sustained by security agencies towards the tracking of the missing students”.
The commissioner said some of the rescued students were injured during the operation and were being treated at a military hospital.
Police and military personnel stood guard around the college on the outskirts of Kaduna city on Friday afternoon as anxious parents and families waited for news. A fighter jet flew overhead.
“We have confirmed from her colleagues our daughter Sera is with the abductors,” Helen Sunday told reporters, tears rolling down her face. “I appeal to the government to help rescue our children.”
Heavily armed gangs in north-west and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging.
The bandits have recently turned their focus to schools where they kidnap students or schoolchildren for ransom. Thursday’s raid was at least the fourth such attack since December.
Mass kidnappings in the north-west are complicating security challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari’s security forces who are also battling a more than decade-long Islamist insurgency in the north-east.
The area is notorious for banditry and armed robbery, especially along the highway linking the city with the airport. The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings.
Victims are often released shortly after negotiations though officials always deny any ransom payments.