Nigerian police are searching for a large group of gunmen that on Wednesday kidnapped 73 students from a school in the northwest of the country, authorities said.
The attackers swooped on the school in the remote village of Kaya, in the Maradun region of Zamfara state on Wednesday morning.
How have the authorities reacted?
“The abduction followed the invasion of the school by large numbers of armed bandits,” Zamfara police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said.
“The command… has deployed a search and rescue team that was mandated to work in synergy with the military to ensure the safe rescue of the abducted students,” Shehu added.
A staff member told Reuters that 500 pupils were enrolled at the school.
Police reinforced security around Kaya, a village of about 23,000 people, after the bandits fled with the children.
Zamfara state officials ordered all primary and secondary schools to close throughout the state as a result of the kidnapping, in order to guard against any further attacks, Ibrahim Dosara said.
They also imposed road travel restrictions and a night-time curfew on the area.
Are these attacks common?
Armed gangs have snatched over 1,100 students in more than a dozen attacks on schools and colleges in northwestern Nigeria since December 2020.
Typically, they then demand ransoms from parents who often have to sell all they have to get their children back, a head teacher in Niger state told the Associated Press. Some children die or are injured in the ordeals if payments are delayed, the head teacher added.
On Friday, 90 pupils were freed from another Nigerian school where children as young as four-years-old were abducted.
Zamfara is one of four states in northwest Nigeria that have taken steps to stop kidnappings taking place in areas where there is not enough police presence. Authorities banned the sale of jerry cans and the transportation of firewood by trucks to stop gangs traveling by motorbike and camping out in the forest.