A military truck arrives at Greenfield University after gunmen kidnapped students in Kaduna, Nigeria, April 21, 2021.
A military truck arrives at Greenfield University after gunmen kidnapped students in Kaduna, Nigeria, April 21, 2021.

ABUJA - Nigerian officials say gunmen abducted several college students in the country’s north central state of Kaduna late Tuesday, killing at least one school official. The attack is the fifth high-profile abduction of Nigerian students since December, and it comes nearly one month after gunmen kidnapped 39 students in Kaduna.

School authorities at Greenfield University in Nigeria’s Kaduna state are conducting a headcount and investigating the attack, but say initial figures show at least 20 students are missing. A staff member was also found dead after the raid.

Local police search team has launched a rescue operation for the missing students.

The attack is the fifth in a series of mass kidnappings in the country's north since December, exacerbating an already bad security situation in the West African nation, said security expert, Ebenezer Oyetakin.

"It's worrisome and disturbing. The problem is that I think we do not have enough proactive intelligence gathering,” said Oyetakin.

It is not clear if all the missing students were kidnapped by local criminal gangs who often kidnap for ransom.

But the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, said more than 700 students have been kidnapped from schools in northern Nigeria since December.

A rescued JSS Jangebe schoolgirl reacts after arriving in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria, March 3, 2021. More than 270 schoolgirls kidnapped in northwestern Zamfara state were freed by their captors.

Nigerian states like Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Yobe and Zamfara have been the hardest hit. Last month, 39 students were taken from another college in Kaduna, and only 10 of them so far have been released.

In another attack this week in nearby Zamfara state, barely 24 hours after the school attack, local dailies reported 45 people were killed.

Nigerian authorities repeatedly have pledged to secure the country’s citizens, but the recurrent attacks have drawn criticisms by right groups demanding accountability.

"We believe that why the crimes have continued is because of lack of accountability. Impunity always leads to further commission of crimes by perpetrators," said Seun Bakare of Amnesty International.

No one has been prosecuted so far since the wave of kidnappings began last year.

Amnesty International reports more than 600 schools have been shut down in at least six states in Nigeria’s north where education has been shaky.