Armed attackers abducted 317 girls from a northern Nigerian boarding school Friday, according to police, The Associated Press reported.
The attack is the latest of several mass kidnappings in the West African nation. Law enforcement and military forces are working to rescue the more than 300 girls following the abduction at the Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe town, Zamafara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said.
No immediate casualties have been reported.
According to the AP, a number of large factions of armed men function in Zamfara state. The government described the groups as bandits and said they often use abductions to obtain money and as ransom for their jailed members to be released.
“We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in the country. “This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through.” He called for their immediate release.
Nasiru Abdullahi, whose daughters, aged 10 and 13, are among those abducted, told The Associated Press that he is disappointed with the level of security at the school.
“It is disappointing that even though the military have a strong presence near the school they were unable to protect the girls,” he said. “At this stage, we are only hoping on divine intervention.”
Musa Mustapha, a local, said the attackers also went after a military camp and checkpoint in an effort to prevent soldiers from protecting the children while the gunmen took over the school for several hours.
The African country has been the home of similar attacks throughout the years, including a mass kidnapping in April 2014. The jihadist group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. Over 100 girls from the attack have yet to be found.
Less than two weeks before Friday’s abduction, 42 people, including 27 students, were snatched by gunmen from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger State. Those taken, including students, teachers and family members, are still being held captive.
Last December, the Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State saw 344 students kidnapped, but they were ultimately released.
Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, tweeted, “Gunmen have abducted about 300 girls from a school in Zamfara barely 9 days after a similar incident in Niger & another in Katsina last Dec. Strong action is required from the authorities to turn the tide & keep schools safe.”
Amnesty International echoed Ewang, calling the abduction an “appalling attack” and warning that “the girls abducted are in serious risk of being harmed.”