Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist rebels have claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of students in an attack on a boys’ school in northern Katsina State, a Nigerian online newspaper says.
More than 330 students are missing from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara after gunmen with assault rifles attacked their school Friday night.
The Daily Nigerian said it received an audio message from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau saying that his group abducted the schoolboys because Western education is against the tenets of Islam.
Nigerian presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement Monday that “the kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already on, pertaining to the safety and return” of the children to their homes.
Shehu said nothing about the identity of the abductors.
The government said a joint rescue operation was launched Saturday by Nigeria’s police, air force and army after the military engaged in gunfights with bandits after locating their hideout in the Zango/Paula forest.
Many of the more than 600 male students were able to escape during the attack while the police engaged in a gunfight, according to Katsina State police spokesman Gambo Isah.
Boko Haram has in the past abducted students from schools. Boko Haram and the breakaway faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province, are fighting to impose strict Islamic shariah rule in Nigeria.
Thousands have been killed in the more than 10-year-old insurgency and more than a million people displaced.