Boko Haram jihadists today claimed responsibility for the abduction of more than 300 school children in Nigeria last week.
‘I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina,’ said the leader of the group that was also behind the 2014 abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok, in a voice message.
At least 333 pupils are still missing after more than a hundred militants stormed the all-boys Government Science Secondary School on Friday.
Shekau said the school was targeted ‘to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his holy Prophet.’
Boko Haram terror chief Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday
Desperate parents gathered outside the school in have gathered at a secondary school in Kankara town, Katsina state, on Sunday to beg authorities to find their sons abducted by gunmen on Friday
Boko Haram, and a splinter group the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), are waging an insurgency in Nigeria northeast and are thought to have only a minor presence in the northwest. However, Tuesday’s claim of responsibility marks a major turning point – suggesting that the Islamists have made major inroads into the northwest
The kidnappings were first blamed on local bandits, but it appears that Boko Haram – whose name means ‘western education is sinful’ – are behind the abductions.
The army said Monday it had located the hideout of the men, and that a military operation was under way.
Terror chief Shekau said: ‘They are also not teaching what Allah and his Holy Prophet commanded. They are rather destroying Islam. It may be subtle, but Allah the Lord of the skies and earths knows whatever is hidden. May Allah promote Islam. May we die as Muslims.’
‘In a nutshell, we are behind what happened in Katsina.’
More than 100 gunmen wielding AK-47s and riding motorcycles stormed the rural school north of Kankara town, forcing students to flee and hide in the surrounding bush.
A number of boys were able to escape, but many were captured, split into groups and taken away, residents said.
A total of 839 boys attended the school and police have given various estimates of the number still missing, ranging from 400 to 600.
But State governor Aminu Bello Masari said that precisely 333 were unaccounted for.
The kidnappings occurred in the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, who condemned the attack and ordered security stepped up in schools, with those in Katsina state closed.
Desperate parents on Sunday gathered outside the school grounds to beg the authorities to find their sons.
Family members of abducted students gather at the Government Science school after it was attacked by gunmen, in Kankara, northwestern Katsina state, Nigeria December 13, 2020
People gather inside the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Nigeria, Saturday Dec. 12, 2020
Parents gather at the Government Science school after gunmen abducted students from it, in Kankara, in northwestern Katsina state, Nigeria December 13, 2020
Abubakar Lawal travelled to the school from Zaria, a city 75 miles south of Kanara, after two of his sons went missing.
‘From yesterday I was here, praying that the almighty Allah should rescue our people,’ he said last week.
Yahaya, a 17-year-old student, said he managed to escape on Saturday. He gave only one name for fear of reprisals.
He said he sneaked away while the kidnappers transferred students to different locations in a forest close to the school.
‘We met someone with a motorcycle who brought us to a nearby village,’ He said. ‘From there someone brought us to Kankara.’
He added that group leaders told the men not to harm them.
A view of a classroom at the Government Science secondary school in the Kankara district after the attack
A school bag left inside a classroom after the children were abducted
The Government Science secondary school is seen in Kankara district, after it was attacked, in northwestern Katsina state, Nigeria December 12, 2020
Tuesday’s claim of responsibility marks a major turning point in the advance of jihadist groups in northwest Nigeria.
Boko Haram, and a splinter group the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), are waging an insurgency in Nigeria northeast and are thought to have only a minor presence in the northwest.
But concerns have grown of jihadist inroads into the region, especially after fighters claiming to be in the northwest released a 2020 propaganda video pledging allegiance to Boko Haram’s leader.
Buhari has made the fight against the group a priority, but the security situation in northern Nigeria has deteriorated since his 2015 election.
#BringBackOurBoys has been trending on social media since the weekend – a reference to a similar hashtag used after the girls’ 2014 abduction.
More than 270 girls were abducted in the kidnappings, but only 164 have escaped, been freed or rescued.
That leaves another 112 still unaccounted for, their parents still desperately seeking answers over the fate of their girls.