Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists have claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of students in an attack on a boys school in northern Katsina State, a Nigerian online newspaper says.
More than 330 students are missing from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara after gunmen with assault rifles attacked their school Friday night.
The Daily Nigerian said it received an audio message from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau saying that his group abducted the schoolboys because Western education is against the tenets of Islam.
“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his Holy Prophet,” the paper quoted Shekau as saying.
There has been no independent verification of the audio message but Shekau has in the past released video and audio messages on Boko Haram’s behalf.
Nigerian presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement Monday that “the kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already on, pertaining to the safety and return” of the children to their homes.
Shehu said nothing about the identity of the abductors.
Several armed groups operate in northwestern Nigeria where Katsina state is located. It was originally believed that the attackers were bandits, who sometimes work with Boko Haram.
The government said a joint rescue operation was launched Saturday by Nigeria’s police, air force and army after the military engaged in gunfights 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 police engaged in a gunfight, according to Katsina State police spokesman Gambo Isah.
Boko Haram has in the past abducted students from schools.