Police in Nigeria’s Zamfara State have said that 317 schoolgirls were abducted in an armed raid on Friday morning, just one week after 42 people were kidnapped from a boys’ school in neighboring Niger State last week.
“The Zamfara State Police Command in collaboration with the military have commenced a joint search and rescue operation with a view to rescuing the 317 students kidnapped by the armed bandits in Government Girls Science Secondary School Jangebe,” police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said in a statement on Friday.
Speaking earlier on Friday, Sulaiman Tanau Anka, information commissioner for Zamfara State, told Reuters that the girls were taken in a midnight raid by unknown gunmen. Anka added that the attackers came with vehicles and transported the schoolgirls away.
Amnesty International Nigeria called the attack “a serious violation of international humanitarian law” and called on the authorities to do everything in their power to bring about the students’ safe return.
The predominantly Muslim state, which borders the Republic of the Niger to the north, has been repeatedly targeted by bandit groups in recent years. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that the rise in abductions has been fueled in part by sizable government payoffs in exchange for the children.
Just last week, gunmen attacked a boys’ school in neighboring Niger State in Nigeria and abducted 42 people. More than 300 boys were kidnapped from a school in Kankara in December, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to his home state.
In 2014, ISIS-linked jihadist group Boko Haram seized 276 girls aged between 12 and 17 from the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok, in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State. While a number of the girls have made successful escapes or been released, more than 100 remain missing.