Gunmen kidnap dozens from forestry college in northwest Nigeria

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Gunmen in northwest Nigeria kidnapped about 30 students from a forestry college near a military academy, in the fourth mass school abduction since December, authorities said.

The latest abduction took place around 11:30pm on Thursday, March 11 at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, in the Igabi local government area of Kaduna state, police said.

“About 30 students, a mix of males and females, are yet to be accounted for,” the state’s commissioner for International Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said in a statement on Friday. Several staff of the school were also kidnapped, he added.

The college sits on the outskirts of Kaduna city, capital of Kaduna state, in a region roamed by armed gangs, who often travel on motorcycles.

“This is the first time that a mass abduction of girls is happening in a higher institution of learning,” Fidelis Mbah, a journalist based in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, told Al Jazeera.

“The armed men have always targeted secondary schools where younger students attended. This is a new development from their usual mode of operation.”

Mbah said that authorities have yet to comment on which group is behind the kidnapping.

On Friday morning, relatives of students gathered at the gates of the college, which was surrounded by about 20 army trucks.

Resident Haruna Salisu, speaking by phone, told Reuters news agency he had heard sporadic gunshots at about 11:30pm local time.

“We were not panicking, thinking that it was a normal military exercise being conducted at the Nigerian Defence Academy,” he said.

“We came out for dawn prayers, at 5:20am, and saw some of the students, teachers and security personnel all over the school premises. They told us that gunmen raided the school and abducted some of the students.”

Salisu said he had seen military personnel taking the remaining students into the academy.