Negotiators are attempting to secure the release of 300 students after their school was attacked by gunmen armed with AK-47s.
The Government Science Secondary School – a boys’ boarding school – was attacked on Friday night, according to the governor of Nigeria‘s Katsina state, Aminu Masari.
Around 300 of the students were rounded up and marched out of the school’s premises.
A joint rescue mission was launched with Nigeria’s police, air force and army on Saturday, the government said.
Shortly after the military located the group’s hideout in the Zango/Paula forest, a gunfight took place.
The government is in talks with the bandits who kidnapped the students and are negotiating terms for their release, the office of President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
Many details of the raid and its aftermath remain unknown, and local officials say that no group or individual has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction of the students.
United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called “for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted children and for their safe return to their families”.
Some of the youngsters were able to escape by jumping the school’s fence and running for safety, after police exchanged gunfire with the attackers.
Among those still missing are two sons of Salish Masi, who said: “I am worried that after three days I have no news about my children.
“I have been waiting for the authorities to tell me what happened but until now, they have said nothing.”
Another concerned parent, Mustapha Gargaba, said that he is very anxious because he does not know what has happened to his son.
Usama Aminu was one of the lucky ones – he managed to escape.
He said: “When I decided to run, they brought a knife to slaughter me. But I ran away quickly.
“They said they would kill whoever is trying to escape.
“Then I began to run, climbing one rock to another through a forest.”
Muhammed Abubakar, 15, also got away by running through farmland and a forest in the dark.
He was among 72 boys who reached safety in the village of Kaikaibise, but seven of his friends are missing.
He said: “The bandits called us back. They told us not to run. We started to walk back to them, but as we did, we saw more people coming towards the dormitory.
“So I and others ran again. We jumped over the fence and ran through a forest to the nearest village.”
He added: “I never thought I would see my parents again.”
Friday’s raid at the school – which has more than 600 students – evoked memories of the 2014 kidnap of more than 270 girls by terrorist group Boko Haram in north-eastern Borno state.
Since then, only about 100 of those girls have been found or freed.
Many have featured in propaganda videos and an unknown number are believed to have died.
Several armed groups operate in north-western Nigeria where Katsina state is located – and more than 1,100 people have been killed by bandits during the first half of 2020, according to Amnesty International.
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