At least 84 kidnapped schoolchildren were rescued following a gun battle between their abductors, security forces and local vigilantes, according to Nigerian police. The children were taken on Saturday while returning home to their village after a religious ceremony.
It was the second mass kidnapping in Nigeria's northwestern Katsina state in eight days. On Friday, more than 300 schoolboys were freed roughly a week after they were abducted from a boarding school.
This most recent kidnapping has also yet to be attributed to any specific group or organization, with police referring to the kidnappers only as "bandits," according to the BBC. Motorcycle bandit groups have been on the rise in northwestern Nigeria, often kidnapping for ransom and leading to deadly clashes as local residents have employed armed vigilantes to protect farms and villages.
The earlier kidnapping is also believed to be the work of "bandits," and not Boko Haram, the BBC said.
These recent mass kidnappings have caused many Nigerians to protest against the government, which they say has allowed these groups to gather strength and commit violence without fear of consequences. President Muhammadu Buhari responded to these concerns this past week after the larger group of schoolchildren was released safely, asking Nigerians to "be patient and fair" — only to have more than 80 children kidnapped two days later.
Our administration is fully aware of the responsibility we have to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians. I ask Nigerians to be patient and fair to us as we deal with the challenges of security, the economy, and corruption. We will not relent.— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) December 17, 2020
Both kidnappings are reminiscent of the high-profile 2014 Boko Haram abduction of 276 schoolgirls in northeastern Nigeria, which made international headlines as officials searched for the missing girls. More than 100 of those girls still appear to be in captivity.