Gunmen attacked a boarding school in north-central Nigeria, killing at least one student and abducting more than 40 people, including students and teachers, according to state governor Abubakar Sani Bello.
The gunmen, wearing military fatigues, stormed the school in Kagara town in Niger statein a night-time raid, just as the 600 male students were fast asleep, the principal Danasabe Ubaidu told the BBC.
In response to the attack, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the armed forces and police to ensure the immediate and safe return of all those abducted.
Describing the attack as “cowardly”, President Buhari said he had deployed a team of security chiefs to co-ordinate rescue operations.
The motive for the attack is unclear, but criminal gangs often carry out kidnappings for ransom in parts of Nigeria, says the BBC’s Ishaq Khalid in the capital Abuja.
On Monday about 20 people who were returning from a wedding ceremony were abducted after an attack on their bus in Niger state. Their fate is unclear.
In December, more than 300 schoolboys were seized in the town of Kankara in the north-western state of Katsina. They were later released following negotiations with the gunmen.
In the latest attack, the gunmen wore military uniforms and stormed the state-run boarding school for boys in huge numbers, before taking students into a nearby forest, the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed security source and an official as saying.
Troops with aerial support were trying to track down the attackers, AFP quoted the security source as saying.
Mr. Ubaidu told the BBC that some of the children had managed to flee into nearby bushes and were now returning.
An uncle of four children at the school said that all his nephews survived, but another pupil was killed.
“They told us that some people in military uniforms knocked at the doors of their dormitories and asked them to come out for morning assembly. But the students dispersed in different directions.
“One of them said his colleague was shot dead beside him by the gunmen as he tried to flee,” the uncle said in an interview with BBC Hausa.
Mr. Buhari has been under intense pressure to tackle insecurity, including an insurgency by militant Islamists in the north-east. Those militants have also been involved in the mass abductions of schoolchildren. (Source: BBC)