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Gunmen abduct over 250 children from school in Nigeria

Families of abducted students are gathering during the visit of the Kaduna State governor Uba Sani on March 7, 2024.

Gunmen have kidnapped more than 250 school children, including at least 100 children aged 12 or under, after raiding a school in a town in northwest Nigeria.

According to teachers and parents of missing children, 187 secondary school students and 40 primary school students were missing.

The school was “surrounded from all angles” by the motorcycle-riding gunmen who arrived at the school just after 8 a.m., said Joshua Madami, a youth leader in the area.

Locals said security forces did not arrive at the scene until several hours later.

The abduction, the largest since 2021, happened at the Local Government Education Authority School in Kaduna state, near the West African nation's capital, on Thursday.

School authorities said one man was shot dead as he tried to save the students.

"We don't know what to do, we are all waiting to see what God can do. They are my only children I have on Earth," said Fatima Usman, whose two children were among those abducted.

“Please stay and help us, please don’t leave us,” one woman cried as the governor’s convoy sped off.

Parents and residents blame the kidnapping on lack of security in the area.

UN child welfare agency UNICEF also condemned the attack and called on the government to do more to protect students.

"Schools are supposed to be sanctuaries of learning and growth, not sites of fear and violence," UNICEF Nigeria director Christian Munduate said in a statement.

Kidnappings for ransom have become endemic in northern Nigeria. Hundreds of schoolchildren and college students have been kidnapped in mass abductions in the northwest and central region, in the last three years.

Almost all were released for ransom payments after weeks or months spent in captivity at camps hidden in forests.

The last major reported abduction involving school children in Kaduna was in July 2021 when gunmen kidnapped more than 150 students.

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