Gunmen abduct students from school in north-central Nigeria

·2-min read

By Ardo Hazzad and Garba Muhammad

BAUCHI/KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) - An armed gang abducted students from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger on Sunday, police and state government officials said.

Armed groups carrying out kidnapping for ransom are blamed for a series of raids on schools and universities in northern Nigeria in recent months, abducting more than 700 students for ransom since December.

A spokesman for Niger's state police said in a statement that gunmen on motorcycles attacked the town of Tegina, in the Rafi local government area of the state, at around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Sunday.

He said the attackers were "shooting indiscriminately and abducted a yet to be ascertained number of children at Salihu Tanko Islamic school".

The school's owner, Abubakar Tegina, told Reuters in a phone interview that he witnessed the attack.

"I personally saw between 20 and 25 motorcycles with heavily armed people. They entered the school and went away with about 150 or more of the students," said Tegina, who lives around 150 metres from the school.

"We can't be exact because most of them have not reported to the school as at that time," he said, when asked for further details of the number taken.

Tegina said there are around 300 pupils aged between 7 and 15. He said pupils live at home and only attend classes at the site.

Most students kidnapped in recent months have been taken from boarding schools.

One person was shot dead during the attack and a second person was seriously injured, the state governor's spokeswoman said.

She said 11 of the children taken were released by the gunmen because they were "too small and couldn't walk". A group of bus passengers were also abducted, she said.

Sunday's attack in Niger took place the day after the release of the remaining 14 students of a group abducted last month from a university in neighbouring Kaduna state.

(Reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi and Garba Muhammad in Kaduna; Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa and Maiduguri Newsroom; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Giles Elgood and Daniel Wallis)