The jihadist group Boko Haram on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of schoolchildren in northwestern Nigeria.
“I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina,” the leader of the group behind the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok 2014 said in a voice message.
At least 333 students are still missing since the attack late Friday at the political science high school in the northwestern state of Katsina.
If Boko Haram was really behind the kidnapping, it would be in line with his belief that education is un-Islamic, reported FR Olances’ Sam Olukoya from Lagos. “That’s what Boko Haram means: ‘Boko,’ education, ‘Haram,’ sin. So one of its goals is to prevent children from going to school.”
But the details of the group’s involvement are still unknown. “The stage at which Boko Haram became involved in this is not clear,” Olukoya said. “Whether they became involved after these children were abducted or whether they were involved in the initial planning of the abduction is unclear at this time.”
The attack was originally blamed on armed groups known locally as “bandits”, who are active in the unstable region where kidnappings against ransom are common.
The army said on Monday that it had located the hideout for the men and that a military operation was underway.
More than 100 armed men on motorcycles stormed the rural school north of the city of Kankara, forcing students to flee and hide in the surrounding bush.
A number of boys were able to escape, but many were captured, divided into groups and taken away, the residents told AFP.
The kidnappings took place in the home state of the presidential state of Muhammadu Buhari, which condemned the attack and ordered the intensification of security in schools, with those in the state of Katsina closed.
Tuesday’s claim to responsibility marks an important turning point in the progress of jihadist groups in northwestern Nigeria.
Boko Haram, and a splinter group of the Islamic State in the province of West Africa (ISWAP), are conducting an uprising in the northeastern part of Nigeria and are considered to have only a small presence in the northwest.
But concerns have increased over jihadist incursions into the region, especially after fighters claiming to be in the northwest released a 2020 propaganda video promising allegiance to Boko Haram’s leaders.
Buhari has prioritized the fight against the group, but the security situation in northern Nigeria has deteriorated since the 2015 elections.
#BringBackOurBoys has been trending on social media since the weekend – a reference to a similar hashtag used after the girl’s abduction in 2014.
( Jowharwith AFP)