A government official said Tuesday that ten students were kidnapped in Kaduna State, northwest Nigeria, where criminal gangs have previously carried out several mass kidnappings of children.
The victims, who are students at the Awon Government Secondary School in Kachia’s central district, were apprehended on Monday under mysterious circumstances, according to Kaduna’s internal security and home affairs commissioner, Samuel Aruwan.
This was the first known mass abduction of students after a lull and since the government’s cash swap policy, which was implemented in part to end ransom payments to kidnappers.
“The Kaduna State Government has received preliminary reports from security agencies regarding the kidnapping of approximately ten students in Kachia,” Aruwan stated.
He said it was unclear whether the students were abducted on school grounds or while travelling to the school, which only offers daytime classes.
“The exact location of the incident is unknown, but detailed reports are awaited to determine whether the incident occurred on school grounds or elsewhere.”
Kaduna is one of several states in northwest and central Nigeria that have been terrorised by bandits who raid villages, kill or kidnap residents, and then burn down their homes after looting them.
The gangs launch their attacks from camps spread across Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, and Niger states.
Hostages are usually released after ransom payments are made by families, and those who do not find cash are killed and their bodies are dumped in the forest.
In the last two years, hundreds of students have been kidnapped in mass school abductions in the region, including Kaduna.
Almost all of the students who had been held captive for weeks or months were released after payment.
Officials and analysts have expressed concern about the growing alliance between bandits motivated by financial gain and jihadists fighting a 14-year-old armed insurgency in the northeast to establish an Islamic caliphate.
Last year, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai warned that Ansaru, an Al-Qaeda-linked group, and Boko Haram jihadists were establishing camps in the state’s Birnin Gwari district.