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Dozens of Students Kidnapped in Central Nigeria, Officials Say

People attend the burial of Monday Doma, the student killed after gunmen stormed the Government Science Secondary School Kagara and kidnapped dozens, in Niger state, Nigeria, Feb. 17, 2021.

Nigerian officials said dozens of high school boys were abducted Wednesday in Niger state by gunmen disguised in military uniforms. Reports said the kidnappers killed at least one student who tried to escape during the attack, the second in Nigeria in just two months.

Authorities said the attack occurred about 2 a.m. local time at the Government Science Secondary School Kagara. A teacher who escaped the raid at the boarding school for boys said hundreds of gunmen on motorcycles herded many abductees into a nearby forest and one student was killed in the process.

A state government spokesperson said Wednesday that 27 people had been kidnapped, dismissing initial claims that hundreds might have been taken.

A viral video released showed captives with abductors demanding about $1.4 million as ransom.

Nigerian security officials did not respond to requests for an interview, but security expert Kabir Adamu said criminal gangs operating in Nigeria's northwest and central regions were to blame.

Kidnapping for ransom

"It's a kidnap-for-ransom situation where they're able to gather this number of persons," Adamu said. "It will be almost easy for them to now take over and then use them to negotiate some form of ransom."

The government secondary school in Kagara where the attack happened has about 1,000 students. Authorities are currently profiling the students for further updates.

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered troops with aerial surveillance to go after the captors and rescue the students, according to a statement released Wednesday by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu.

But experts say lack of government control over the crisis-ridden regions is the reason incidents reoccur.

"The locations where these schools are are vulnerable locations; they are remote locations usually that are close to these ungoverned spaces that exist in Nigeria that these criminals use as haven," Adamu said. "Then the schools’ physical security is almost very weak, the fencing, sometimes the perimeter walls."

Nigeria's northwest and central regions have been recording growing insecurities often carried out by criminal gangs known as bandits, kidnapping for ransom.

Last December, a similar attack occurred in Katsina state but the more than 300 boys were released six days later through negotiations.

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