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Gunmen kidnap 227 pupils from school in Nigeria

By Garba Muhammad and Hamza Ibrahim

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) -Gunmen in Nigeria kidnapped more than 200 school pupils in the northern town of Kuriga on Thursday, a teacher, local councillor and parents of the missing children said, in the biggest mass abduction from a school since 2021.

Police in Kaduna state did not respond to requests for comment on the abductions, which happened shortly after morning assembly at the Local Government Education Authority School in the town of Kuriga.

"The number of the kidnapped from the secondary section based on the statistics we took together with the parents is 187 while that of the primary section is 40 for now," said Sani Abdullahi, a home economics teacher.

Local councillor for Kuriga Idris Maiallura said he had been to the school and said the gunmen initially took 100 primary schools pupils but later freed them while others escaped.

Parents and residents blamed the kidnapping on lack of security in the area.

Kaduna state Governor Uba Sani visited Kuriga and promised to get the students released, his office said, but did not say how many pupils were missing.

Amnesty International called on Nigerian authorities to safely rescue the students and hold perpetrators to account.

"We don't know what to do, we are all waiting to see what God can do. They are my only children I have on Earth," Fatima Usman, whose two children were among those abducted, told Reuters by telephone.

Another parent, Hassan Abdullahi, said local vigilantes had tried to repel the gunmen but had been overpowered.

"Seventeen of the students abducted are my children. I feel very sad that the government has neglected us completely in this area," Abdullahi said.

Kidnappings for ransom by armed men have become endemic in northern Nigeria, disrupting daily lives and keeping thousands of children from attending school.

The last major reported abduction involving school children in Kaduna was in July 2021 when gunmen took more than 150 students in a raid. The students were re-united months later with their families after they paid ransoms.

(Reporting by Garba Muhammad in Kaduna, Hamza Ibrahim in Kano and Ahmed Kingimi in Maiduguri, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Jon Boyle and Sandra Maler)