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Nigeria Jihadist rebels from Boko Haram have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of hundreds of students in one of the largest attacks in years against a children’s school in the northern state of Katsina.

More than 330 students are missing from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara after men armed with assault rifles attacked their school Friday night.

The government and the attackers are negotiating over the fate of the children, according to Nigerian presidential spokesman Garba Shehu.

“The kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already underway about the safety and return” of the children to their homes, Shehu said on Twitter Tuesday. He did not give information on the identity of the kidnappers.

the Nigerian daily He said he received an audio message from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, saying that his group kidnapped school children because Western education is against the principles of Islam.

“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage non-Islamic practices, as Western education is not the type of education allowed by Allah and his Holy Prophet,” the newspaper quoted Shekau as saying.

There has been no independent verification of the audio message, but Shekau has published audio and video messages on behalf of Boko Haram in the past.

Government Science High School in Kankara, Nigeria
Katsina state police spokesman Gambo Isah said in a statement that the Government Science High School in Kankara was attacked on December 11 by a large group of bandits who fired AK-47 rifles. (AP)
Several armed groups operate in northern Nigeria, where Katsina State is located. The attackers were originally believed to be bandits, sometimes working with Boko haram.

The attack and the rescue operation

The government said that the Nigerian police, air force and army launched a joint rescue operation after the military engaged in shootings 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 attackers were in a shootout with police, according to Katsina State Police spokesman Gambo Isah.

Boko Haram School Kidnapping Story

Boko Haram has kidnapped students from schools in the past.

Nigeria’s most serious school attack took place in April 2014, when more than 270 schoolchildren were abducted from their dormitory at the government secondary school in Chibok, in the northeastern state of Borno. About 100 of the girls are still missing. Boko Haram said at the time that it wanted to prevent women from attending school.

The recent incident at the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara is the worst attack on a children’s school since February 2014, when 59 children were killed during a Boko Haram attack on the Buni Yadi Federal Government College in the state of Yobe.

International scrutiny of the group’s ‘war crimes’

The assault comes when Boko Haram and the Nigerian army can be investigated for war crimes in the insurgency, which has lasted for more than 10 years.

Last week, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said a decade-long investigation has found sufficient evidence to warrant opening a full-scale investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Boko extremists. Haram, as well as charges that the Nigerian government forces have also perpetrated abuses.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said there is a “reasonable basis to believe” that Boko Haram and splinter groups linked to it committed crimes such as murder, rape, sexual slavery and torture, as well as intentionally attacking schools and places of worship and using child soldiers. While Boko Haram has carried out a large majority of the crime in the conflict, prosecutors also found reason to believe that members of the Nigerian security forces had committed crimes, he said.

Government Science High School, Kankara, Nigeria
People gather inside the Government Science High School in Kankara, Nigeria, on December 12, 2020. (AP)

Amnesty International released a report last week saying that at least 10,000 civilians had died in Nigerian military custody since 2011 after being detained in connection with the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram and the separatist faction, the province of the Islamic State of West Africa, are fighting to impose strict Islamic law in Nigeria.

Thousands of people have died in the insurgency for more than 10 years and more than a million people have been displaced.

– Reported with Associated Press

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