Police in Nigeria have launched a search operation to locate about 200 school children who were abducted by armed bandits on Sunday, but have ruled out paying a ransom to secure their freedom.
Gunmen on motorbikes attacked the town of Tegina on Sunday afternoon, shooting one person dead and seriously injuring a second person before seizing the school children from an Islamic school in Niger state.
Police have been trying to track the ground route the kidnappers had taken with the children. A warplane is also being used to canvass the area. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
Deputy governor Ahmed Mohammed Ketso told reporters the local government was doing all it could to identify the assailants.
“We don't pay ransom to abductors. We are trying to negotiate to see how we can bring them (children) back safely,” he said.
As a precautionary measure, police officers have been stationed at schools throughout the region, Ketso said.
On Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari also decried the abduction and urged the Nigerian law enforcement to secure the children's prompt return.
The abduction follows the freedom of 14 students from a university in northwestern Nigeria after 40 days of being in captivity.
Since December last year, more than 700 students have been abducted for ransom by armed groups in raids on schools and universities in northern Nigeria.
The government denies paying ransoms to the armed groups but is widely believed to have done so in the past.
The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014 by Boko Haram drew international attention to the epidemic of school raids in Nigeria, but the most recent attacks are thought to be the work of criminal gangs.