My India First

My India First

Mass Kidnappings of Nigerian College students Depart Dad and mom in Shock and Despair

Rashidat Hamza is in despair. All however one in every of her six youngsters are among the many practically 300 college students kidnapped from their college in Nigeria’s conflict-battered northwest.

Greater than two days after her youngsters — ages 7 to 18 — went to high school in distant Kuriga city solely to be herded away by a band of gunmen, she was nonetheless in shock Saturday.

“We’ve got by no means seen this type of factor the place our youngsters had been kidnapped from their college,” she instructed an Related Press staff that arrived within the Kaduna state city to report on Thursday’s assault. “We do not know what to do, however we consider in God.”

The kidnapping in Kuriga was solely one in every of three mass kidnappings in northern Nigeria since late final week, a reminder of the safety disaster plaguing Africa’s most populous nation. A bunch of gunmen kidnapped 15 youngsters from a college in one other northwestern state, Sokoto, earlier than daybreak Saturday, and some days earlier 200 folks had been kidnapped in northeastern Borno state.

A Nigerian soldier patrol sat the LEA Main and Secondary College Kuriga the place college students had been kidnapped in Kuriga, Kaduna Nigeria, March 9, 2024.

It was in Borno’s Chibok city a decade in the past that faculty kidnappings in Nigeria burst into the headlines with the 2014 abduction of greater than 200 schoolgirls by Islamic extremists, surprising the world.

No group claimed duty for any of the current abductions. However Islamic extremists waging an insurgency within the northeast are suspected of finishing up the kidnapping in Borno. Locals blame the college kidnappings on herders who’re in battle with the settled communities.

Among the many college students kidnapped Thursday had been not less than 100 youngsters aged 12 or youthful. They had been simply settling into their school rooms on the authorities major and secondary college when gunmen “got here in dozens, using on bikes and capturing sporadically,” mentioned Nura Ahmad, a instructor.

The college sits by the highway simply on the entrance of Kuriga city, which is tucked in the course of forests and savannah.

“They surrounded the college and blocked all passages … and roads” to stop assist from coming earlier than marching the kids away in an operation that lasted lower than 5 minutes, Ahmad mentioned.

Fourteen-year-old Abdullahi Usman braved gunshots in making his escape from the captors.

“Those that refused to maneuver quick had been both compelled on the bikes or threatened by gunshots fired into the air,” Abdullahi mentioned.

“The bandits had been shouting, ‘Go! Go! Go!'” he mentioned.

By the following day, Nigerian police and troopers headed into the forests searching for the youngsters however combing the wooded expanses of northwestern Nigeria might take weeks, observers have mentioned.

“Since this occurred, my mind has been scattering,” mentioned Shehu Lawal, the daddy of a 13-year-old boy who’s amongst these kidnapped.

“My baby did not even eat breakfast earlier than leaving. Even his mom fainted. … We had been fearful, pondering she would die,” Lawal mentioned.

Some villagers like Lawan Yaro, whose 5 grandchildren are among the many kidnapped, say their hopes are already fading into worry.

Individuals are used to the area’s insecurity, “but it surely has by no means been on this method,” he mentioned.

“We’re crying, in search of assist from the federal government and God, however it’s the gunmen that may resolve to carry the kids again,” Yaro mentioned.

“God will assist us,” he mentioned.

For the reason that 2014 abduction in Chibok of 276 schoolgirls, which sparked the worldwide #BringBackOurGirls social media marketing campaign, not less than 1,400 Nigerian college students have been seized from their colleges in related circumstances. Some are nonetheless in captivity together with practically 100 of the Chibok women.

People wait for news about the kidnapped LEA Primary and Secondary School Kuriga students in Kuriga, Kaduna, Nigeria, March 9, 2024.

Folks anticipate information concerning the kidnapped LEA Main and Secondary College Kuriga college students in Kuriga, Kaduna, Nigeria, March 9, 2024.

However colleges are usually not the one targets.

1000’s of individuals have been kidnapped throughout Nigeria within the final yr alone, based on the Armed Battle Location and Occasion Information Challenge. The disaster has even hit properties within the capital of Abuja, the place President Bola Tinubu took workplace after being elected final yr following a marketing campaign through which he promised to resolve kidnappings.

A significant component that battle analysts say has fueled the abductions is how straightforward it’s to smuggle in arms over Nigeria’s poorly policed borders. Greater than half of its 1,500-kilometer border with Niger, as an example, stretches throughout the northwest. Although principally savannah, the area additionally has huge forests which can be ungoverned and unoccupied, offering havens for organized gangs and their kidnap victims.

In 2022, Nigerian lawmakers handed a invoice to bar ransom funds, however Nigeria’s kidnappers are recognized for brutality, prodding many households to scramble to pay a ransom.

Fatigued by the 14-year Islamic insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast, the navy continues to conduct air raids and particular navy operations within the area. However the armed gangs proceed to develop in numbers and infrequently work with the extremists who’re in search of to increase their operations past the northeast.

The armed gangs are “adapting their methods and additional entrenching themselves within the northwest by way of extortion,” mentioned James Barnett, a researcher specializing in West Africa on the U.S.-based Hudson Institute.

“Their mentality is that they need to be allowed free rein to do what they please within the northwest and that if the state challenges them, straight or not directly, they should reply and present their power,” Barnett mentioned.

Greater than a dozen checkpoints and navy vans now dot the 89-kilometer highway that runs from Kuriga city to town of Kaduna. However the troopers are prone to quickly be deployed elsewhere, each time a brand new safety incident requires that troops present a presence.

Folks in Kuriga can solely hope that the schoolchildren return unharmed and that the safety they really feel now with the navy vans round endures.

“We hope for assist from the federal government in order that they are going to arrest the attackers,” mentioned Hamza, the mom fearful for her 5 kidnapped youngsters. “The gunmen do not enable us to farm, they do not enable us to have peace exterior … we do not have safety — no soldier, no police.”

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