Murtala Muhammadu, 48, a local businessman from Tegina, a remote town in Niger state’s Rafi district, told CNN on Tuesday that his 5-year-old son and three daughters aged 6 and 7 were kidnapped by an Islamic school children included. Evening school by armed assailants in Niger State.
“My four children – three girls and one boy – are now in captivity,” Muhammadu said.
According to state police officials, at least one person died during the raids, the latest in a series of school kidnappings in the country this year.
Kidnapping for ransom remains a major security challenge in Nigeria. Hundreds of students have been kidnapped in separate incidents in the northern part of the country since December.
scenes of chaos
The school’s headmaster, Abubakar Alhasan, described scenes of chaos as the attackers broke into the school premises, which houses a nursery, primary and junior secondary school.
“Before the day started and the gates were closed, they entered through the school window.”
They later broke down the gate and stormed the school, causing panic as the frightened children locked themselves in rooms while others fled, Alhasan said.
“Some children ran and locked themselves inside some offices but still the bandits snatched away more than 150 of the 303 students,” he said.
Alhasson’s two children, aged 6 and 10, were also involved, as well as a male and two female teachers, he said.
He said more than 100 of his students in captivity are between 4 and 5 years old. The institution is an Islamic school, called Islamiyya, for the evening schooling of boys and girls and the learning of basic religious teachings.
Muhammadu told CNN that prior to the raid there were reports of an impending attack on Tegina by armed men.
Muhammadu said, “I was standing in front of my house when someone told me that there was a rumor going on about that bandits… planning to attack our community. We were advised to take our- Keep a close watch on your families.”
Muhammadu described the moment the attackers stormed Tegina on Sunday afternoon and opened fire randomly.
“All of a sudden we saw them coming to our community. They passed in front of my house at around 3.30 pm without saying anything to anyone… and headed towards a petrol pump. Then they started firing,” he said.
The father’s worst fears were confirmed when he received a call informing him that only four of his eight children had returned home from school.
Marie Noel-Berje, a spokeswoman for the Niger state government, told CNN on Monday that at least 11 children abducted during the raid were later freed because of their age.
Noel-Berje said, “Eleven children were released because of their tenderness… Very young children who could not go through the bush route left the kidnappers’ escape route.”
Niger State’s Lieutenant Governor, Ahmed Mohamed Ketso, told a news conference on Monday that the government had contacted some parents of the abducted children to assure them of their safe return.
“We don’t pay a ransom to the kidnappers. We’re trying to negotiate to see how we can get them back safely,” Ketso said.