Gunmen abducted 317 girls from a boarding school in northern Nigeria on Friday. Police and military have started joint operations to rescue the girls after Government Girls Junior Secondary School's attack in Jangebe town. Nasiru Abdullahi, one of the parents of the two missing girls speaking to The Associated Press said that his daughter aged 10 and 13, were among the missing. He further added that, “It is disappointing that even though the military have a strong presence near the school they were unable to protect the girls. At this stage, we are only hoping on divine intervention.”
The gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from intervening while the gunmen spent several hours at the school, according to Musa Mustapha, a resident.
In Zamfara state, many large groups of armed men operate, identified by the government as bandits, and are known to kidnap for money.
On Friday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said that the main objective of the government is to get all school hostages returned safe, alive and unharmed.
He asserted that, “We will not succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in the expectation of huge ransom payments. Let bandits, kidnappers and terrorists not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness, or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
Buhari called on the state governments to review their policy of making payments to bandits. He said that, “Such a policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack on the girls and called for the girls' immediate and unconditional release and safe return to their families.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that, "U.N. supports to Nigeria’s government and people “in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime and urged Nigerian authorities “to spare no effort in bringing those responsible for this crime to justice.”
Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in the country said that, “We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on school children in Nigeria." He further added that, "This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through."
Over the years, Nigeria has seen many such attacks and kidnappings, notably the mass abduction of 276 girls from secondary school in Chibok, Borno state, by the jihadist group Boko Haram in April 2014. About a hundred of the girls are yet to be identified.
Two weeks ago, gunmen abducted 42 people including 27 from the Kagara Government Science College in Niger State. The teachers, students and members of the family are still being held.
A total of 344 students have been kidnapped from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State, in December. They were finally released.
Anietie Ewang, Human Rights Watch's Nigeria researcher, noted the latest abductions and tweeted that "The authorities need strong action to turn the tide and keep schools safe."Amnesty International also condemned the attack and said that “the girls abducted are in serious risk of being harmed.”