An attempt to kidnap hundreds of schoolboys in northwestern Nigeria has been prevented by security agents, according to a statement issued by a state official on Sunday.
This comes days after dozens of students were kidnapped in the latest mass abduction.
The kidnapping of 39 students on Thursday was the most recent in a series of abductions. This has complicated the security challenges plaguing the armed forces controlled by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The security agents have also been combating a more than decade-long Islamist insurgency in the West African country’s northeast region.
“Between the late hours of Saturday night and the early hours of today, suspected bandits stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Ikara… in an attempt to kidnap students,” said Samuel Aruwan, the State Home Affairs Commissioner.
“Fortunately, the students utilized the security warning system in place, and were thus able to alert security forces in the area”, he said.
He added that a joint security force, comprising soldiers, policemen and vigilantes, were deployed to the school and “engaged the bandits, forcing them to flee”.
The military managed to rescue 180 students, including eight staff members, after a violent clash with the gunmen.
Heavily-armed gangs in the northwest and central Nigeria have also stepped up attacks in recent years.
They have recently turned their focus to schools where they kidnap students or schoolchildren for ransom, with Thursday’s abduction being the least fourth of such attack since December.
Aruwan said all 307 students in the school targeted on Saturday had been accounted for after a headcount.
In his words:
”The attempted kidnap was foiled completely and no student was taken from the school.”
On Saturday, local media published a video of some of the 39 students who were kidnapped from the outskirts of Kaduna city on Thursday, appealing to the government to rescue them without violence.
The recording was claimed to have been sent through a Facebook account of one of the hostages.
They appeared to be in a forest, surrounded by gunmen in military uniform. The video could not be independently verified.
Aruwan said the government was committed to rescuing the hostages.
“As a government, our focus is on getting back our missing students and preventing further episodes of school abductions,” he said.