More than 300 schoolgirls abducted Friday in northern Nigeria amid frequent kidnappings

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped 317 schoolgirls in northwestern Nigeria on Friday (Feb. 26). Local police said it was the second kidnapping in a row in the region in just over a week.

In recent years, heavily armed criminal groups have launched frequent attacks in northwestern and central Nigeria, holding hostages for ransom, in addition to raping and pillaging civilians.

Both kidnappings were carried out by the terrorist group Islamic State West Africa Province (formerly known as Boko Haram), Reuters said. The recent spate of such incidents in northern Nigeria has caused great suffering to the families of the victims and frustration to local authorities and the armed forces.

The latest abduction took place at the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, a town in Zamfara State. Police in the state said the government has sent troops to launch a search and rescue operation.

The official version is that the attack began around 1 a.m. with sporadic gunfire. The kidnappers took the students away in a truck. There have been three kidnappings there since last December.

Last week, 42 people, including 27 students, were kidnapped in a nighttime attack on a school bus by unidentified gunmen in Niger State, located in north-central Nigeria. One student was killed in the attack. The hostages have not been released to date.

Last December, 344 male students were taken in a kidnapping in Kankara, a city in the northwestern state of Katsina. However, after six days of negotiations between the government and the kidnappers, the boys were all released. The government denied giving ransom to the kidnappers.

According to Reuters, local officials said the frequent kidnappings were partly due to the government’s offer of a sizeable ransom to whet the kidnappers’ appetite.

For its part, the government usually denies taking money for ransom.

Initially, the kidnappings of students took place in the northwest, where Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa province are located, but militants in the northwest have gradually learned to do the same.