On November 11, 2020, more than 330 Nigerian boys went missing from the Government Science Secondary School following an attack by gunmen. According to reports, the attackers arrived on motorcycles and proceeded to begin a fierce battle with the security forces on the ground as hundreds of the children ran into the surrounding forests in Kankara, Katsina. It is so far unclear how many of the students were kidnapped and how many are yet to be found due to their frantic fled into the forests and bushes. So far, authorities are assuming that all of these unaccounted boys are being held captive, a figure of more than 330 children would be one of the largest cases of mass schoolchildren kidnapping in history according to analysts.
According to a spokesman for Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, there have been negotiations between the attackers and the government for the safe return of the boys. There have also been updates that rescue operatives had discovered the location of the kidnappers and children and had them surrounded. In a statement, Marie-Pierre Poirier, the UNICEF director for West and Central Africa stated “UNICEF condemns in the strongest possible terms this brutal attack and calls for the immediate release of all children and their return to their families. UNICEF is deeply concerned about this act of violence. Attacks on schools are a violation of children’s rights.”
The extremist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for this kidnapping. In an audio message received by The Daily Nigerian, Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram took responsibility but so far there has been no verification from an independent source of the authenticity of his claims. The reasoning given by Shekau for the kidnapping was that Western education goes against the tenets of Islam, something the extremist group has always been very vocal about along with any type of social or political endeavors based or associated with Western society. Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group that has been wreaking havoc within Nigeria since 2009 and which like many terrorist groups, seeks to overthrow the government and implement their own beliefs and will upon the general population. This move seems like a replication of one of their most notorious acts, the kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in 2014, About 100 of these girls remain missing to this day. Just as the trending #BringBackOurGirls became a rallying cry internationally for the Chibok schoolgirls, #BringBackOurBoys is growing traction as Nigerians clamour for change, security from the violence that now seems to run rampant, and the young boys to be returned.
This abduction fuels the growing fears and insecurity surrounding security within the country especially the northern region. According to reports from Amnesty International, in the first six months of 2020, more than 1,100 people were murdered at the hands of bandits and gangs in the northern region of Nigeria.
It also comes at a time where both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military are being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes connected to the insurgency of the extremist group, which has now lasted more than a decade. Just last week, there was a statement from the ICC’s chief prosecutor that their investigations have discovered enough evidence to warrant a full inquiry into the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram members as well as the crimes of the Nigerian government forces who have also committed numerous crimes and abuses.
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