More than 300 boys are feared missing after gunmen raided a boarding school on Friday in northwestern Nigeria.
Nigerian government troops have now surrounded the area where gunmen are believed to be holding the boys hostage in northwestern Katsina state. The government exchanged gunfire with the kidnappers, forcing them to retreat. No deaths have been reported. The exact number of abductees is not currently known.
Authorities say they have been searching for the missing boys for the entire weekend.
Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman, said there was a “massive deployment” of troops to recover the abducted children. “Military commanders on the ground have the coordinates of where they believe the bandits are, and whoever they are holding. They have surrounded all of that area,” he added.
Speaking to CNN, Hassan Abdul-Bashir was in his bed when the gunmen raided the school. He says he took shelter under a faulty school bus.
“They commanded the crowd like a herdsman herd the sheep,” Abdul-Bashir told the news outlet on Saturday. He said the gunmen were asking students for money, ransacking their lockers and taking some of their belongings. “They shot the policeman guarding our school. I saw them driving many students. There could (be) as much as 200 students, but I am not sure,” he said.
The nation’s leader has slammed the attack.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly bandits’ attack on innocent children,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement Saturday.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Their motive remains unclear.