'I forced her to go to school', Nigerian mother cries after mass school abduction

Saturday March 09 2024

A boy holds a sign to protest against, what a teacher, local councilor and parents said, the kidnapping of hundreds school pupils by gunmen after the Friday prayer in Kaduna, Nigeria on March 8, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


Seven-year-old Safiya Kuriga complained she was feeling feverish but her mother still made her attend class on Thursday. Within two hours, gunmen entered her school and kidnapped Safiya and some 300 other students in Nigeria's Northern Kaduna state.

"I forced her to go to school that morning despite her complaining to me of a fever," a sobbing Khadiya Kuriga told Reuters by phone from Kuriga town. "We have been crying since yesterday. Our children are hungry."

Gunmen seized more than 300 primary and secondary school children between the ages of seven and 15, school authorities and parents said on Friday.

Read: Gunmen kidnap over 200 pupils in Nigeria

Some students were later released while a few others escaped, leaving at least 286 missing, said Salisu Abubakar, a teacher at the Local Government Education Authority School.

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, the first mass school abduction in Nigeria since July 2021, when gunmen seized some 150 children.


President Bola Tinubu said he had directed security and intelligence agencies to rescue the children "and ensure that justice is served against the perpetrators."

Kidnappings at schools in Nigeria were first carried out by militia group Boko Haram, who seized more than 200 students from a girls' school in Chibok in Borno state a decade ago.

But the tactic has since been adopted by criminal gangs without any ideological affiliation seeking ransom payments, according to authorities.

Read: Nigerian troops kill 35 Boko Haram fighters

'Wearing military uniform'

Thirteen-year-old Aminu Abdullahi said the armed men numbered about 50 and were shooting in the air when they entered the school.

He was lucky as he ran into the bush to hide until the gunmen left with many of his schoolmates.

"They came on motorcycles carrying guns, with some of them wearing military uniforms standing and shouting 'All of you should stop' while shooting in the air," Aminu said, adding that he managed to outrun his pursuer and returned home.

Sani Muazu's eight-year-old son Ali also managed to escape, but not after he was taken deep into the bush by the kidnappers.

The young boy was in class when armed men stormed in and ordered everyone to follow them. Before he knew what was happening, Ali was walking barefoot in the bush with dozens of others, followed by the gunmen, his father said.

"My son did not know how many they were but he said they were many. They were crying of hunger, exhaustion and dehydration," Muazu said.

When darkness fell, the children were made to sleep in a large clearing in the forest and Ali saw an opportunity to escape.

"That was how my son managed to escape and walked back home throughout the night. We just saw him arrive early this morning and we are grateful to God," Muazu said.