JANGEBE, Nigeria (AP) – Nigerian families have been eagerly awaiting news of their abducted daughters after more than 300 schoolchildren were abducted last week by gunmen at a public school in the north of the country, the latest in a series of mass school kidnappings in the West. African nation.
The worried parents gathered at the school, which was guarded by police, on Sunday. Aliou Lada Gegebe said the kidnappers broke into the school of his five daughters, aged 12 to 16. Four were taken away, and one managed to escape by hiding in the bathroom with three other girls.
“We (a) are not in a good mood, because when you have five children, you are able to provide for (only) one. We only thank God: But we are not happy, “said Ge Angebe.
“We have no idea what their situation is,” she said of her missing daughters. Residents of a nearby village say the kidnappers smelled the girls like animals in the city.
One resident said gunmen attacked a checkpoint at a nearby military base, preventing soldiers from responding to the kidnapping.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the government’s priority is to return all hostages safely and securely. Police and the military have launched a joint operation to rescue the girls, said Mohammed Shehu, a spokesman for the Amfara state police spokesman.
The abduction of the girls has caused international outrage.
Pope Francis, in a public address to St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, prayed for the release of the girls as soon as possible.
“I’m praying for these girls to get home soon … I’m close to their families, to them,” said Francis, asking people to join him in prayer.
Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the abductions, called on the girls to be “immediately and unconditionally released” and returned safely to their families. He called the attacks on schools a serious violation of human rights and the rights of children, said UN spokesman Stefan Dujarric.
There have been several similar attacks and kidnappings in Nigeria in recent years. Twenty-four students and six staff members were released on Saturday after being abducted from a government science college in Kagara, Nigeria. In December, more than 300 schoolchildren were taken from Kankara Secondary School in northwestern Nigeria and released. The government has stated that no ransom has been paid for the students’ release.
The most notorious abduction was in April 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram jihadist rebels from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State. More than 100 of those girls are still missing.
Boko Haram is opposed to Western education; its fighters often target schools. Other organized gangs, locally called bandits, often kidnap students for money. The government says large groups of gunmen in the state of Amfara are known to kidnap for money and press for the release of their members in prison.
Nigerian criminal networks could plan more such kidnappings if this stage of kidnappings goes unpunished, analysts say.
“While improving community policing in general remains a medium-term challenge, in the short term the authorities should punish those responsible for sending a strong message that there will be zero tolerance for such actions,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior researcher at the New Morocco Research Center in New York. employee of the policy center.