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In an audio tape released by the leader of Boko Haram on Tuesday, the Islamist extremist group claimed responsability for the mass abduction of hundreds of students last week.
The same group that was responsable for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls six years was behind the a similar act in north-western Katsina state last week, according to the terrorist organization's leader, Abubakar Shekau: "Our brothers were behind the abduction in Katsina.
Last Friday night, a large group of men armed with AK-47s overran the all-boys Government Science secondary school, leading over 300 students into surrounding forests.
In April 2014, the group kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok, 100 of whom are still missing, and the group has similarly kidnapped thousands of other in north-eastern, and more recently, north-western Nigeria.
Lacking detail, however, Shekau's statement has been met with doubt, as officials in Katsina have already received ransom demands from other groups of bandits that witnesses say were responsible.
Given the reality that across the entire Sahel region, armed criminals, traffickers and Islamic extremists enjoy close relations, it's possible that the bandits may have traded some or all of the schoolboys to Boko Haram in exchange for money, weapons or other resources.
One of the students, 18-year-old Musa Adamu, was sleeping in the school dormitory when he heard gunshots: "The sound got louder, then I ran and jumped out of the window and over the fence of the school and ran along with many others into the forest. We spent the night there, because we were afraid to come back to the school,” he said.
Another student, Samatu Aliyu, was forced to flee into the forest by the attackers with hundreds of others, but escaped and found his way to Kankara after 36 hours.
300+ boys in Nigeria are still missing after gunmen stormed their school and kidnapped them. Parents condemned government inaction, and #BringBackOurBoys is trending.
Boko Haram, who abducted 270+ girls in 2014, claimed responsibility. Many of those girls are still missing. pic.twitter.com/wlmLNnOhlu
“We walked from that night to the morning in the forest without shoes. Most of us had feet that were bleeding and there was nothing to eat. We only drank muddy water, and at some point, they left me behind and turned away, and so I ran and walked back alone,” Aliyu said.
The attack has sparked anger in the town, as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from Katsina, decried the "cowardly … attack on innocent children” while Kankara resident Jamilu Isah said the town was “in mourning."
“Our mothers are still crying everywhere you go in the town. People are not happy. We feel the government has abandoned us … we just want them to bring our boys back,” Isah stated.
According to Amnesty International, 1,126 people were killed by bandits between January and June of this year alone in Nigeria. Kidnappings and fatal robberies by bandits have become commonplace in recent years in Nigeria's north-west, and towns in forests close to the border with Niger have been most vulnerable to these attacks.
Given successive military operations have failed to destoy Boko Haram and its still-alive leader Shekau has been reported dead on multiple occassions, the attack in Katsina will put further pressure on Buhari and his government's failed attempts to address the endemic insecurity throughout Nigeria.
According to Bulama Bukarti, an extremism expert and analyst at the Tony Blair Institute, "The Buhari administration has not responded to this situation with the urgency, seriousness and tact it requires. Different military operations have been launched, but it’s clear that all of them are understaffed, under-skilled and underfunded."