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Gunmen Abduct Students From School in North-Central Nigeria

FILE - An empty classroom is seen following an attack by gunmen at a school in Kagara, Nigeria, Feb. 18, 2021. Gunmen have attacked a school in the country's north-central Niger state Sunday, according to local officials.

An armed gang abducted students from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger on Sunday, police and state government officials said.

Armed groups carrying out kidnapping for ransom are blamed for a series of raids on schools and universities in northern Nigeria in recent months, abducting more than 700 students for ransom since December.

A spokesman for Niger's state police said in a statement that gunmen on motorcycles attacked the town of Tegina, in the Rafi local government area of the state, around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) Sunday.

He said the attackers were "shooting indiscriminately and abducted a yet to be ascertained number of children at Salihu Tanko Islamic school."

The school's owner, Abubakar Tegina, told Reuters in a phone interview that he witnessed the attack.

"I personally saw between 20 and 25 motorcycles with heavily armed people. They entered the school and went away with about 150 or more of the students," said Tegina, who lives about 150 meters from the school.

Tegina said there are around 300 pupils between the ages of 7 and 15. He said pupils live at home and only attend classes at the site.

Most students kidnapped in recent months have been taken from boarding schools.

One person was shot dead during the attack and a second person was seriously injured, the state governor's spokeswoman said.

She said 11 of the children taken were released by the gunmen because they were "too small and couldn't walk." A group of bus passengers were also abducted, she said.

Sunday's attack in Niger state took place the day after the release of the remaining 14 students of a group abducted last month from a university in neighboring Kaduna state.