Boko Haram claims abduction of students in northern Nigeria

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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – Rebels from the extremist group Boko Haram on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of hundreds of boys from a school in northern Nigeria’s Katsina state last week during one of the most major attacks of this kind for years, raising fears of a growing wave of violence. In the region.

More than 330 students remain missing from Kankara government secondary school for science after gunmen armed with assault rifles attacked their school on Friday evening, although many more managed to escape.

The government and the attackers are negotiating the fate of the boys, according to Garba Shehu, a spokesperson for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already underway regarding the safety and return” of the children to their homes, Shehu said on Twitter during talks with the governor of Katsina, Aminu Masari. None of the officials indicated whether the negotiations were with Boko Haram or another group.

Masari said security agencies “deployed on rescue operations have also informed us that they have located their position.”

The Daily Nigerian said it received an audio message from Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau claiming the kidnapping, although there has been no independent verification of its authenticity.

The Islamic extremist group has already carried out massive kidnappings of students. The most serious was in April 2014, when more than 270 schoolgirls were taken from their dormitories at the government secondary school in Chibok, in northeastern Borno state. About a hundred girls are still missing.

In February 2014, 59 boys were killed in a Boko Haram attack on Buni Yadi Federal Government College in Yobe State.

In the audio message on Friday’s attack, Shekau said his group abducted schoolchildren because Western education went against the tenets of Islam.

More than 600 students attend the school. Many were able to escape in a shootout between the attackers and the police, according to state police spokesman Gambo Isah.

The students corroborated this account with various news agencies, claiming that many of them were also arrested and forced to walk to a nearby forest, where some were also able to flee.

Several armed groups operate in northern Nigeria, where Katsina state is located. It was originally believed that the attackers were bandits, sometimes working with Boko Haram.

Bandits have been operating in the northwest region for some time and kidnappings have increased in recent years. Amnesty International says over 1,100 people killed in first six months of 2020 in violence related to bandit attacks.

A joint rescue operation was launched on Saturday by the Nigerian police, air force and army after the military engaged in shootings with bandits after locating their hiding place in the Zango / Paula forest .

If Boko Haram is proven to be behind the kidnapping, it could mean that a new wave of religious extremism is on the rise in Nigeria. For more than 10 years, the group has embarked on a bloody campaign for the introduction of a strict Islamic regime, but it is mainly active in the northeast of Nigeria, not in the northwest, where is Katsina State. Thousands of people have been killed and over a million displaced by violence.

Nnamdi Obasi, of the International Crisis Group, said a shift of Boko Haram activities to the northwest would have serious security implications as it could team up with other armed criminal groups known to lead. attacks and collect payments from households and markets.

“They are like mini-armies capable of carrying out operations in defiance of the security forces, and that is worrying” …

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