Mass kidnappings of Nigerian students leave parents in shock and despair

Rashidat Hamza is in despair. All but one of her six children are among the nearly 300 students abducted from their school in Nigeria’s conflict-battered northwest.

More than two days after her children — ages 7 to 18 — went to school in remote Kuriga town only to be herded away by a band of gunmen, she was still in shock Saturday.

“We have never seen this kind of thing where our children were abducted from their school,” she told an Associated Press team that arrived in the Kaduna State town to report on Thursday’s attack. “We don’t know what to do, but we believe in God.”

The kidnapping in Kuriga was only one of three mass kidnappings in northern Nigeria since late last week, a reminder of the security crisis plaguing Africa’s most populous country. A group of gunmen abducted 15 children from a school in another northwestern state, Sokoto, before dawn Saturday, and a few days earlier 200 people were kidnapped in northeastern Borno State.

It was in Borno’s Chibok town a decade ago that school kidnappings in Nigeria burst into the headlines with the 2014 abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Islamic extremists, shocking the world.

No group claimed responsibility for any of the recent abductions. But Islamist extremists waging an insurgency in the northeast are suspected of carrying out the kidnapping in Borno. Locals blame the school kidnappings on herders who are in conflict with the settled communities.

Among the students abducted Thursday were at least 100 children aged 12 or younger. They were just settling into their classrooms at the government primary and secondary school when gunmen “came in dozens, riding on bikes and shooting sporadically,” said Nura Ahmad, a teacher.