Parents converged on a secondary school in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state on Sunday, begging authorities to save hundreds of boys abducted by gunmen.
The army had exchanged fire with a gang that took the students from the all-boys Government Science school in Kankara, a spokesman for the president said on Saturday night, but parents on Sunday said they had heard little more on the fate of their children.
Abubakar Lawal came from Zaria, a city 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Kanara, after learning that two of his three sons at the school were among the missing.
“From yesterday I was here, praying that the almighty Allah should rescue our people,” he said outside the dusty school grounds.
One of his missing sons, 17-year-old Buhari, was named after President Muhammadu Buhari, a native of Katsina state. Anas, 16, was also missing. Lawal said the school principal addressed parents, telling them to pray.
Murja Mohammed, whose son was taken, begged authorities for help.
“If it’s not government that will help us, we have no power to rescue our children,” she told Reuters.
The president’s office declined to comment, referring queries to the police. Military and police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Some boys seen by Reuters said they had escaped from the forest where the gunmen took them, but it was not immediately clear how many remained in captivity or what the group wanted.
Attacks by armed gangs, widely referred to as bandits, are common throughout northwestern Nigeria. The groups typically attack civilians, stealing or kidnapping them for ransom. Islamist militants, who attack security and civilian targets, are more common in the northeastern part of the country.
There is growing anger with the precarious security situation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Late last month, Islamist militants killed scores of farmers in northeastern Borno state, beheading some of them.
This latest attack comes just six years after 276 girls were kidnapped from their Chibob dormitory. At the time, the hashtag #BringBackourGirls was circulated widely around the world. However, about 100 of those girls are still missing.
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