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Gunmen kidnap hundreds of girls from Zamfara school

317 students have been abducted, continuing a trend of attacks on schools and young students.

A signpost of the Government Girls Junior Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State [TheCable]

The armed attackers invaded the school around 1 am on Friday, February 26, 2021, according to the state's Commissioner for Information, Suleiman Tunau Anka.

Police authorities announced hours after the incident that a total of 317 girls were kidnapped by the armed group.

Some aggrieved residents of Jangebe protested the abduction on Friday afternoon and attacked two vehicles transporting journalists to the community to report on the incident, as tensions flared.

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Zamfara is one of the worst-affected by the activities of armed groups in the northern region.

The state governor, Bello Matawalle, has been offering amnesty to 'repentant' bandits to surrender their arms, a programme that has achieved mixed results.

The governor on Friday evening announced the closure of all boarding schools across the state due to lingering security concerns.

He said he's fully committed to ensuring a speedy rescue of the schoolgirls and reuniting them with their families.

He said police helicopters and other search and rescue operatives have been deployed to the area, and appealed to parents to exercise patience.

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"At this trying moment, it is most appropriate for all men and women of good conscience to extend emotional support to the families of the abducted girls," he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari in his own Friday statement warned armed groups targeting school students that his administration will not succumb to blackmail.

The 78-year-old said the only thing holding the government back is the rules of engagement which aims to protect hostages that could be used as human shields if a heavy-handed approach is deployed by security forces.

"Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government.

"They shouldn't mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution," he cautioned.

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Buhari also appealed to state governments to review their policy of rewarding armed groups with money and vehicles.

27 students and 15 others who were similarly abducted from the Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State on February 17 are yet to regain their freedom.

344 boys who were similarly abducted from a school in Kankara, Katsina State in December 2020 were released after a week.

The boys were initially transported across state lines to Zamfara where the government eventually negotiated their freedom.

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The mastermind of that operation, Auwal Daudawa, was granted state pardon by Governor Matawalle weeks later, a continuation of his peace deals with violent armed groups in the state.

113 schoolgirls were also abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in Dapchi, Yobe in 2018, but 107 of them were released one month later.

While five of them died in the course of the abduction, the remaining hostage Leah Sharibu remains in captivity.

112 girls also kidnapped in Chibok, Borno in 2014 remain in captivity nearly seven years after 276 of them were taken from their school hostel by Boko Haram terrorists.

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