Hundreds of Nigerian students claimed to have been kidnapped by Boko Haram
An audio message from a man identifying himself as the leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram has made the claim that the armed group was responsible for the abduction of hundreds of students from a school in the northwestern state of Katsina.
The exact number of missing students remains unclear. Military spokesman General John Enenche announced to Channels TV on Monday that some 333 pupils were unaccounted for after heavily armed gunmen raided the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in the town of Kankara.
“I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina,” stated the man in Tuesday’s voice message.
Boko Haram together with its splinter faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), has for years waged a violent armed campaign in the northeast of the country and neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. In 2014, Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in the town of Chibok.
The man in the audio message offered no solid proof for the claim. Additionally, no video footage was released of the missing boys. There was also no immediate comment by Nigerian authorities.
Late on Monday, the governor of Katsina state, Aminu Bello Masari, remarked that the abductors “have made contacts with the government”.
“Talks are ongoing to ensure their safety and return to their respective families,” he tweeted, without identifying the kidnappers.
A joint rescue operation was launched this past Saturday by Nigeria’s police, air force and army, according to the government. The army commented on Monday that it had located the hideout of the men, and that a military operation was under way.
On Sunday, parents and family members came together at the school, issuing a plea to authorities to bring the missing boys back to safety.
“If it’s not government that will help us, we have no power to rescue our children,” Murja Mohammed, whose son was abducted, said.