Another armed mass abduction of children from their school has been carried out in Nigeria.
On Thursday, militants killed a police officer and kidnapped five teachers and an unknown number of students in an attack in the northwest of the country.
A gunfight erupted between the attackers and police outside a federal government school in the remote town of Birnin Yauri in the state of Kebbi.
The militants eventually overpowered the police before making their way into the building and abducting a number of female students, local media reported.
“We are still trying to ascertain the number of students kidnapped, but five teachers were kidnapped,” Kebbi police spokesman Nafiu Abubakar told reporters. “Security forces are searching the forest in an attempt to track down the kidnappers and their victims.”
Panic broke out at the school as parents searched for their children, eyewitness Atiku Aboki told Reuters. “When we got there we saw students crying, teachers crying,” he said.
More than 800 students have been kidnapped from schools in Nigeria since December. The authorities have blamed the raids on armed groups who are looking for ransom.
The Nigerian government has denied ever paying ransom for the return of the kidnapped but suspicion is strong that deals have been made, media sources say.
As a result, kidnapping school students for ransom has turned into something of a growth business in Nigeria.
The continuing spate of kidnappings sparked protests in the country’s Niger State in late May, with locals disrupting a major highway while demanding better security and protection from law enforcement.
The most infamous kidnapping of female students was seven years ago when Boko Haram militants stormed a boarding school in the village of Chibok and kidnapped 276 girls.
The abduction drew worldwide attention and sparked an international campaign advocating for their release with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Many of the girls escaped almost immediately. Another girl was found in May 2016 when she wandered out of a Nigerian forest asking for help.
Boko Haram released 21 more girls to the Nigerian government after negotiations in 2016. Then 82 more girls were freed in a prisoner swap between the terrorist group and the government in the capital city of Abuja in 2017.
Since then, almost nothing had been heard of the 112 young women remaining prisoners.
A CNN report said that many mothers of still missing schoolgirls suffer the community stigma of their daughters being judged as “bad girls” who chose to stay with Boko Haram, reflecting the group’s public announcements that the remaining girls elected to stay with them rather than return home.