Boko Haram, the fearsome anti-west cult, has claimed claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of school students in northwest Nigeria.
“I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina,” said the leader of the group that was also behind the 2014 abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok, in a voice message.
The federal government has announced Shekau's 'elimination' in several raids on their supposed camps across Sambisa forests in Borno State.
A minimum of 333 students have been missing in consequence of the attack late last Friday on the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in northwestern Katsina state.
The development was initially blamed on armed groups locally known as “bandits”, who are active in the unstable region where kidnappings for ransom are common.
The army claimed Monday it had located the hideout of the men, and that a military operation was under way.
Over 100 gunmen on motorcycles reportedly besieged the rural school north of Kankara town, forcing students to flee and hide in the surrounding bush.
However, a number of the boys were able to escape, but many were captured, divided into groups and taken away, residents told AFP.
The kidnappings occurred in the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, who condemned the attack and ordered security stepped up in schools. The state governor, Aminu Masari, complemented Buhari by ordering all schools closed.
The claim Tuesday of responsibility by Boko Haram marked a major turning point in the onslaught of the bloody groups in northwest Nigeria.
Boko Haram, and a splinter group the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), are waging an insurgency in Nigeria's northeast and are thought to have only a minor presence in the northwest.
But concerns have grown of jihadist inroads into the region, especially after fighters claiming to be in the northwest released a 2020 propaganda video pledging allegiance to Boko Haram’s leader.
Buhari has made the fight against the group a priority, but the security situation in northern Nigeria has deteriorated since his 2015 election.