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At Least 80 Students Missing After Latest School Raid in Nigeria

FILE - A school stands empty after the abduction days earlier of its students, in Tegina, Nigeria, June 1, 2021. Kidnappers most recently targeted a school in the town Yauri in northwest Nigeria's Kebbi state.

Police in Nigeria say armed men have attacked a school in the northwest state of Kebbi, killing a police officer and abducting at least 80 students and teachers. It's the latest in a series of school kidnappings for ransom that have exposed growing insecurity in northern Nigeria.

About 250 gunmen on motorbikes invaded the government college in Yauri, Kebbi state midday Thursday. They shot sporadically, killed a police officer and abducted five lecturers along with the students.

However, one of the students with bullet wounds was dropped along the way.

The attack is the latest in a string of kidnappings in northern Nigerian schools since December, and the third in the last month.

Speaking to Lagos-based Channels Television Friday morning, Yusuf Sununu, a local constituent leader in Yauri said security operatives are making progress with the search mission.

"We have made a lot of contacts and as at last night, even around 1 a.m. this morning, I had a discussion with the field commander, [he said] that they have succeeded in entering into the den of the kidnappers and I think this is a major success because security agents are now taking the fight to the base of the kidnappers" Bununu said.

The government school and many others in Kebbi were shut down Friday.

Amnesty International reports about 600 schools in northern Nigeria have closed as a result of persistent attacks since late last year.

Earlier this year, the government promised more security deployment to schools.

But Emmanuel Hwande, spokesperson of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, says schools remain poorly protected.

"As far as the security situation as it affects our schools is concerned, nothing has changed" Hwande said. "We can only say things have changed where we receive reports of less of such occurrences. But in the span of just this week, we have heard a kidnap of a lecturer and a kidnap in a polytechnic in Kaduna.”

Nigeria authorities have faced increased criticism over the kidnappings, one of the many security challenges including Boko Haram conflict in the northeast, and a growing separatist movement in the country's southeast.

The separatist calls have led to the creation of various regional security forces, which authorities say are illegal and threaten national security.

The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, says lack of opportunities is the major reason for the escalating security issues.

"Challenges to security are more than just about a physical response. While there may be very many different reasons for insecurity in Nigeria for example, I think we may all agree that lack of opportunity underpins many of them," Leonard said. "I was just in Kebbi last week, more farmers are being employed to grow rice to bring to the factory where people have jobs.”

Late last month, armed men seized 136 young students from an Islamic Seminary school in central Niger state. So far, only 11 of them have been freed.