Nigeria’s president dispatches security chiefs to rescue abducted students

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has dispatched security chiefs to coordinate rescue operations for students abducted by unidentified gunmen in the northern state of Niger on Wednesday, his spokesman said.

Buhari condemned the school abduction, the spokesman said in a statement, adding that they were yet to ascertain the number of staff and students abducted by the gunmen.

Unidentified gunmen attacked a secondary school in Nigeria’s Niger state overnight and abducted many students, the state governor’s spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The assailants stormed the Government Science college in the Kagara district at around 2 am, overwhelming the school’s security detail, according to local residents.

The spokeswoman said many students had been abducted but did not specify how many.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack.

Militant group Boko Haram and a branch of Islamic State are active in northern Nigeria, but kidnappings by other armed groups – mostly for ransom – are also common.

The latest attack came two months after gunmen stormed a secondary school in northwestern Katsina state and kidnapped nearly 350 boys, who were subsequently rescued by security forces.

About 100 of more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok in 2014 are still missing.

Such attacks have raised concerns about rising violence by insurgents and armed gangs and fuelled widespread criticism of Buhari‘s handling of national security. In January, the president appointed a new military high command.

Violence and insecurity have compounded the economic challenges faced by citizens in Africa’s most populous country, which is struggling to cope with a fall in revenues due to an oil price slump on top of COVID-19.

The Niger state governor will address the media on Wednesday, his spokeswoman said.