Gunmen who kidnapped scores of high school students in Nigeria’s northwestern Katsina state have exchanged fire with military forces trying to rescue them, the country’s president said Saturday.
Armed with AK-47s, the gang stormed the Government Science secondary school in Kankara district on Friday night, police and locals said.
A parent and school employee told Reuters that roughly half of the school’s 800 students were missing.
Condemning the attack in his home state, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that the military had located the kidnappers in a forest and was exchanging fire with them, aided by air support.
Police and the military were still working to determine how many were kidnapped and missing.
Police at the scene on Friday exchanged fire with the attackers, allowing some students to run for safety, police spokesman Gambo Isah said in a statement
Police said they would deploy additional forces to support the search and rescue. One officer was shot and wounded in the exchange of fire with the gang, they said.
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Katsina is plagued by violence the government attributes to bandits – a loose term for gangs of outlaws who attack locals and kidnap for ransom. Attacks by Islamist militants are common in northeastern parts of the country.
Violence and insecurity across Nigeria have enraged citizens, particularly after scores of farmers were killed, some beheaded, by Islamist militants in northeast Borno state late last month.
Buhari, who arrived on Friday for a week in his home village some about 125 miles from Kankara, was scheduled to brief the national assembly on the security situation last week, but cancelled the appearance without official explanation.