Tens of armed assailants on motorcycles on Friday invaded hostels of the Federal University Gusau in Nigeria’s Northwest Zamfara state and abducted more than 35 students, mostly females.
Zamfara State Police Command spokesperson Yazid Abubakar confirmed the abduction as the authorities mobilised a military response to pursue the attackers.
"By Friday afternoon, six students had been rescued," he said nearby Sabon-Gida community in Bungudu Local Government Area (LGA) of Zamfara State in the early hours of Friday.
"The gunmen invaded the community at 3:00am and started shooting indiscriminately after which they attacked the university," a witness, Mallam Abdul Bagudu, said.
Three hostels were invaded, and all the students taken away by the bandits.
The windows’ rails, panes and locks were all were visibly damaged, while the ceiling was broken.
A student who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "They (the bandits) forced their way through the windows. They dragged them out through the window."
"The bandits engaged with troops of the Nigerian Army in a fierce gun battle after which they made away with the kidnapped victims," Hassan Aliyu, a student, said.
“They divided themselves into two groups with one group taking the kidnapped victims while the other staying behind to engage the forces,” he added.
“The first group had left with the students while the second group engaged the army in a gun duel,” Aliyu said.
Many students at the university in June had protested against the spate of abductions involving their college mates in Sabon-Gida and Damba in Zamfara State.
The military in the Command of 1 Brigade Nigerian Army, Gusau, confirmed that six of the students had been rescued and indicated that several of the bandits were also killed.
Zamfara is one of the states with high level of insecurity in the Northwest, which is being ravaged by banditry.
Once they kidnap, the bandits then call relatives of the abductees to demand ransom.
Many of the schools in the six states in Northwest Nigeria shut down because of the menace of bandits. They had only recent started reopening before the latest incident.
Initially the kidnapping was blamed on Boko Haram terrorists who were in the habit of abducting and killing students.
The attacked Government Girls Science Secondary School, Chibok in Northeast Borno state on April 14, 2014, and took away 276 students many of which have not been recovered. Now, splinter groups and gangs kidnap for ransoms too.