Parents converged on a secondary school in Nigeria’s Katsina state, the home state of President Mohammadu Buhari on Sunday, begging authorities to save hundreds of boys abducted by gunmen.
More than 300 students from the all-boys Government Science school in Kankara were kidnapped on Friday night by unknown gunmen.
“We will not rest until we see the end of this,” state spokesman Abdul Labaran told Reuters.
Labaran said military and intelligence chiefs were in Kankara to lead the rescue. While 321 students were missing, he said some could have gone home to other states.
All state schools in Katsina were ordered to close because officials did not know the attackers’ motives, the education commissioner said.
Abubakar Lawal came from Zaria, a city 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Kankara. Two of his three sons at the school were among the missing.
“From yesterday I was here, praying that the almighty Allah should rescue our people,” he said outside the dusty school grounds.
One of his missing sons, 17-year-old Buhari, was named after President Muhammadu Buhari, a native of Katsina state.
Yahaya, 17, told Reuters he escaped on Saturday. He gave only one name for fear of reprisals. He said he sneaked away while the kidnappers transferred students to different locations in the forest.
“We met someone with motorcycles who brought us to a nearby village,” He said. “From there someone bought us to Kankara.”
He said group leaders told the men not to harm them.
Attacks by armed gangs, widely known as bandits, are common throughout northwestern Nigeria. The groups attack civilians, stealing or kidnapping them for ransom. Islamist militants are more common in the northeast.
There is growing anger with the precarious security situation in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Late last month, Islamist militants killed scores of farmers in northeastern Borno, beheading some of them.
The kidnapping of the school children coincided with the day President Buhari arrived in the state for a week-long vacation.
Though President Buhari has condemned the attack the school children by the gunmen, he is yet to personally visit the school or the parent of the abducted students.