Jerome Delay/AP
Kaduna, which borders the Nigerian capital Abuja has grappled with recurring incidents of kidnappings by marauding gangs known locally as ‘bandits’.
CNN  — 

At least 287 school children, some as young as eight years old, are being held by gunmen who raided their school in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna State early Thursday, a police spokesperson told CNN Friday.

More than 300 students were taken early Thursday by the armed bandits on motorcycles who stormed the LEA Primary and Secondary School in the Kuriga village of Kaduna’s Chikun district, the state’s police spokesman Mansur Hassan said.

Some of the students were rescued but 287 of them remain with the kidnappers, Hassan said.

“Students were kidnapped from the school premises on Thursday morning around 8:00 am (local time). About 287 students are still in the hands of the bandits, 100 from the primary side and 187 from the secondary school,” Hassan said, adding that “over 300 students were initially kidnapped, but some were rescued.”

Earlier, Reuters reported that 227 children were kidnapped, citing a teacher, local councilor, and parents of the missing children. Several other reports including the Washington Post and a local outlet report 287, citing the school’s headteacher.

CNN cannot independently verify these figures.

Governor of Kaduna state, Uba Sani said in a statement Thursday that his government was “doing everything possible to ensure the safe return of the pupils and students” kidnapped.

Sani also said a member of the community who confronted the abductors during the attack was killed, adding that the President of Nigeria and the National Security Adviser were aware of the situation, and a Security Committee and a military base will be established in Kuriga to strengthen security in the area.

Kaduna state, which borders the Nigerian capital Abuja to the southwest, has grappled with recurring incidents of kidnappings for ransom by bandits and has witnessed several mass abductions in recent years, including in the district where LEA Primary and Secondary School is located.

In 2021, at least at least 140 students were kidnapped by armed men from a private secondary school. The incident came just months after around 20 students from a private university in Chikun’s Kasarami village were abducted by gunmen, five of whom were killed after a ransom deadline was not met, family members told CNN at the time.

Amnesty International’s Nigeria office condemned the kidnapping while urging authorities to take immediate measures “to prevent attacks on schools, to protect children’s lives and their right to education.”