Armed bandits in Nigeria snatch 140 students and three babies

Bandits in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna State have snatched 140 students from a boarding school and abducted at least eight people from a hospital in two separate incidents as violent kidnapping soars.

Sunday morning’s attack on a medical facility, the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy in the city of Zaria, included the abduction of three babies, nurses and security guards, according to reports.

Less than 70 miles away in the village of Maramara, heavily armed criminals broke into the Bethel Baptist High School on Monday morning and seized 140 students who were boarding overnight.

"They … overpowered the school’s security guards and made their way into the students’ hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest," a police statement said, adding 26 people including a female teacher had been rescued.

The attack is the fourth mass kidnapping of schoolchildren since December.

Criminal gangs, which had previously focused on cattle rustling, have switched to targeting educational facilities since the start of the school year.

An investigation by local media found that 1,065 students have been kidnapped by bandits in Nigeria over the past seven months.

Six of the children have been killed by their abductors, while more than 250 are still held captive.

Most are eventually returned home after ransom is paid following negotiations with local officials.

Student belongings lie on a bed after 140 boarding students were kidnapped

Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

Emmanuel Paul, a teacher at the Bethel Baptist High School, said that 25 students had managed to escape after being taken from the boarding school.

Mohammed Jalige, a local police spokesman, said that "tactical police teams" were pursuing the kidnappers. 

Gunmen also frequently target hospitals in the region. In April, two nurses were snatched from a hospital in the Kajuru area of Kaduna State.

The state governor, Nasir El Rufai, has said he will not negotiate with kidnappers and blames the increase of incidents on criminals from other regions.

However, his recent move to withdraw his son from a local school after he was put there to inspire confidence has emboldened critics who believe the situation is getting out of hand.

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