Boko Haram says it was behind kidnapping of hundreds of schoolchildren in Nigeria

Credit: AP
  • By Digital Presenter and Producer Amani Ibrahimi

Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has said it was behind the abduction of hundreds of schoolchildren in Nigeria.

More than 300 students are still missing after their school was attacked on Friday last week.

The gunmen on motorbikes stormed the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in Kankara armed with AK 47 rifles. 

Police exchanged fire with the group of men, ‘’which gave [some of] the students the opportunity to scale the fence of the school and run for safety’’, said a Katsina State police spokesman, Gambo Isah.

Despite this, hundreds of them have still not returned home and it’s unclear how many of them managed to flee the attack. 

The school, located in Nigeria’s north-western Katsina state, is believed to have more than 600 students.

Empty classroom at Government Science Secondary School in Kankara after hundreds of children taken by gunmen. Credit: AP

What do we know so far?

The Daily Nigerian said it received an audio message on Tuesday where the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, was heard saying that "our brothers were behind the abduction in Katsina".

The paper reported that Shekau said the reason behind the attacks was to stop Western education as the organisation believes this goes against Islam.

Since the attack, the military said it had located the gunmen’s hideout in the Zango/Paula forest on Saturday - exchanging gun fire, according to a statement by President Muhammadu Buhari.

President Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, tweeted that the the government are aware of the children’s location. 

He also tweeted that the Deputy Governor, Mannir Yakubu said "the kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already on pertaining to safety and return to their homes".

Although authorities are trying to reassure parents by saying they have located the attackers - many people say they have lost faith in the government after attackers to strike again. 

Who are Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is a jihadist terrorist organisation located in north-eastern Nigeria. They’re also based in other places such as Niger, Chad and northern Cameroon.

It’s not the first time that the extremist group has claimed responsibility for school abductions.

In April 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok. About 100 of them are still missing.

The school abduction sparked protests across the world at the time and ignited a viral social media campaign with the hashtag 'Bring back our girls'.

The reality of a similar attack happening six years later has caused outrage amongst the community.

Boko Haram have also been involved in taking thousands of people across north-eastern Nigeria.

People attend a funeral for those killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in Zaabarmar, Nigeria in November. Credit: AP

The terrorist group was accused back in November for the killing of 40 at least farmers and fishermen.

However, how much direct involvement the extremist group had in the recent school attack is still being questioned.

Officials in the state have already received ransom demands from ‘bandits’ which some eyewitnesses say are behind it.

The President’s spokesman wasn’t clear in his tweets with whom they are negotiating but bandits are usually said to ask for money.

Students books and bags left in empty classroom after school attacked by gunmen. Credit: AP

Who are the 'bandits'?

The term ‘bandit’ is usually used when referring to a person or a group involved in crimes such as robbery, murder, kidnapping for ransom etc.

However, in northern Nigeria, the use of the term has only seen an increase.

Bandits have been described as a gang on motorbikes who carry guns and have been involved in previous abductions.

Most of their kidnappings are usually for ransom, meaning money is often at the centre of it.

Crimes committed by the bandits are certainly not unheard of, however, if they are involved in the recent attacks, then this would be their first abduction of hundreds of schoolchildren. 

It’s not uncommon either for these gangs to want to meet or contact governors to negotiate money.

Hundreds of students still missing after gunmen attacked the secondary school in the Katsina state. Credit: AP

Does Nigeria have a kidnap problem?

There are fears that some of the bandit gangs are copying tactics from groups like Boko Haram and ISWAP as kidnappings continue to increase.

Northern Nigeria has become a target for abductions as cases continue to get worse - causing huge concerns over national security.

For some, the kidnap for ransom industry has become almost like a business. 

A report by a Nigerian consulting firm, SB Morgen, says between June 2011 and the end of March 2020, at least more than £13 million had been paid to kidnappers as ransom.

More than half of that money was paid out between 2016 and 2020 - indicating kidnappings have become more lucrative. 

Armed organisations, vigilantes, criminal gangs and jihadists have increased in North West Nigeria, according to the ICG.

More than 8,000 have been killed as a result of the violence since 2011 and more than 200,000 people have been displaced.