Hundreds of Nigerian students are presumed missing or kidnapped after gunmen stormed a secondary school in the country’s restive northwest.
Police on Saturday said the gang, armed with Kalashnikovs, had attacked the Government Science secondary school in Kankara district in the northwestern Nigerian state of Katsina, adding that roughly half of the school's 800 students were missing.
Police spokesman Gambo Isah said in a statement that the forces had exchanged fire with the assailants at the scene and allowed some students to run for safety.
"The bandits came on motorcycles firing sporadically and tried to enter the school," Isah said. "Our men with the assistance of the army engaged them in a shootout lasting one and a half hours."
The spokesman underlined that police were working with the army and air force to exactly determine how many pupils had gone missing or kidnapped, and to find them.
One officer was shot and wounded in the exchange of fire with the armed gang.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose home state is where the assault occurred, censured the attack in a statement and ordered security reinforcement in other schools.
"I strongly condemn the cowardly bandits' attack on innocent children at the Science School, Kankara. Our prayers are with the families of the students, the school authorities and the injured," he said, calling on security forces to arrest the gunmen.
Katsina is among several northwest Nigerian states that have been repeatedly attacked by "bandits" who kidnap for ransom and rustle cattle.
In August, seven students were kidnapped along with their female teacher from a private secondary school in nearby Kaduna state.
The hostages were later released, but it was not revealed if a ransom had been paid.
Moreover, militant attacks by the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group are common in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, where scores of farmers were killed and some beheaded last month.