Niger Government still unsure how many students were kidnapped, as Governor remains abroad

The government says it won't pay ransom for the hostages.

Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello [Niger State Government]

Gunmen attacked the school, located at Tegina in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger, and abducted the students and teachers, leaving one person shot dead, and another sustaining gunshot injuries.

It's been reported that between 100 and 200 hostages were taken by the gunmen, but the state government said in a statement on Monday, May 31 that it wasn't sure yet.

The state's deputy governor, Ahmed Mohammed Ketso, said during a media briefing that efforts by security agencies have been intensified to secure the release of the hostages.

He said some of the parents of the abducted students have already been contacted with assurances that their children will return safely.

However, Ketso noted that the government won't pay ransom to the abductors as is the state's publicly-claimed policy.

"We don't pay ransom to abductors. We are trying to negotiate to see how we can bring them back safely," he said.

Monday's briefing was helmed by the deputy governor because Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, is currently abroad on a 'security mission'.

His spokesperson, Mary Noel-Berje, said in a statement late on Sunday that the attack happened shortly after he left the country.

Without revealing which specific country he travelled, she said the governor is abroad to explore all possibilities of strengthening the state's security architecture.

Noel-Berje said the governor is expected back in the state 'within the shortest period of time', but was not specific about when.

Sunday's abduction is a repeat of the abduction of 24 students and 14 others at the Government Science College, Kagara in Niger in February.

The students were released over a week later, after the government negotiated with their abductors.

Some passengers of a Sharon Bus travelling to Minna were also abducted on Sunday, with attacks recorded across numerous communities in three LGAs - Rafi, Wushishi, and Bida.

In the Wushishi attack, gunmen attacked 17 communities on about 70 motorcycles and shot many residents.

Some women and children drowned as they tried to escape across River Kaduna, according to the government's report.

"The situation has reached crisis level; in fact, it's a war situation that we have to confront without further delay," Governor Bello said in reaction to the attacks.

Sunday's attacks highlight yet again the worrying insecurity in the country, with violent crimes increasingly happening in many parts of the country.

The Federal Government's response has been adjudged to be insufficient as thousands are killed, kidnapped for ransom, or displaced from their communities.

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