KANO, Nigeria: Gunmen have kidnapped more than 30 people, including at least 24 female students, in a raid in and around a university in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, residents said Saturday.
Dozens of gunmen from criminal gangs called bandits stormed Sabon Gida village on the edge of a Federal University outside the state capital Gusau in a predawn attack on Friday breaking into three female hostels and taking away the occupants, residents told AFP.
The attack was the first mass kidnapping at a college since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to power, promising to tackle the country’s security challenges.
“The bandits rode into the village on motorcycles and broke into the hostels and gained access into rooms by bringing down the windows,” Sabon Gida resident Sahabi Musa said.
“They took away at least 24 female students from the hostels along with two male neighbors, one of whom is a staff (member) of the university,” said Musa, who lives close to the hostels.
The attackers went into the university and seized nine welders working on a new building while they were sleeping, said Shehu Hashimu, another resident who corroborated Musa’s account.
One of the welders managed to escape and returned to the school, Hashimu said.
Troops deployed from Gusau, 20 kilometers away and engaged the attackers in a gunfight but a group of the kidnappers herded the hostages away while another group faced the soldiers, the two sources said.
“The attackers had a field day. They operated in the village from 3:00 am to 6:00 am unchallenged before troops arrived,” Hashimu said.
A video shared online after the assault showed ransacked rooms in one of the hostels with their windows pulled down.
Yazid Abubakar, Zamfara state police spokesman, confirmed the attack but declined to provide details, saying security personnel were working to free the captives.
A military officer said a military operation was under way as soldiers were confronting the attackers in a forest close to the nearby town of Tsafe.
“Six of the female students have been rescued by troops who pursued the terrorists into the forest,” said the officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the operation.
Zamfara is one of several states in northwestern and central Nigeria terrorized by bandits who raid villages, kill and abduct residents as well as burn homes after looting them.
The gangs maintain camps in a huge forest straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
The criminals have been notorious for mass kidnappings of students from schools in recent years.
In February 2021, bandits raided a girl’s boarding school in the town of Jangebe in Zamfara state, kidnapping more than 300 students.
The girls were freed days later following a ransom payment by the authorities.
Nigeria is facing a myriad of security challenges, including a 14-year militant insurgency in the northeast that has killed at least 40,000 people and forced more than two million others to flee their homes.