ABUJA, Nigeria — Gunmen attacked a school in the Nigerian state of Niger early on Wednesday, killing at least one student and abducting more than 40 people, including students and teachers, according to an official, a teacher and a prefect.
The gunmen, thought to be bandits, fatally shot one student during the episode, which occurred at the Government Science College, Kagara. Local reports said that about 26 students and 16 employees and family members had been abducted, and the authorities were trying to get exact numbers.
The gunmen chased the students across the school and shot one of them in the head as he tried to escape, the school’s head prefect, Awal Abdulrahman, said.
A teacher at the school, Aliyu Isah, said the gunmen entered the school premises at about 1:30 a.m. dressed in military camouflage. He said they had forced him to lead them to the students’ sleeping quarters, where he and some students were then tied up in pairs.
“They told the students not to worry, that they were soldiers,” he said, adding that some of the gunmen were wearing army uniforms.
“They gathered all the students outside, but some ran into the bush,” Mr. Isah said. “I was thinking I would not be able to escape, but luckily enough Allah gave me a way to escape from them and I assisted the students that we were tied together.”
In response to the attack, Niger State’s governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, closed the state’s schools and called on President Muhammadu Buhari for assistance to improve security.
Mr. Buhari directed the armed forces and police to ensure the immediate and safe return of all those abducted, a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said in a statement.
The president also sent a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operation and meet with state officials, community leaders, and the school’s parents and staff, according to Mr. Shehu.
“President Buhari has assured of the support of his administration to the armed forces in their brave struggle against terrorism and banditry, and urged them to do all that can be done to bring an end to this saga and avoid such cowardly attacks on schools in the future,” he said.
The attack came two months after gunmen abducted more than 300 schoolboys from a secondary school in Katsina State in northern Nigeria. The students were later released.
It also occurred three days after gunmen attacked a bus belonging to the Niger State Transport Authority and abducted at least 21 passengers. On Tuesday, a statement from the office of the state’s information commissioner, Mohammed Idris, said that 10 people had been freed from those kidnappers. He said that no ransom was paid to secure their release.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest abduction in Kagara.
Nigeria’s jihadist rebels, Boko Haram, oppose Western-style education and in the past have carried out mass abductions of schoolchildren as part of a violent campaign to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.
Several highly organized armed groups, locally called bandits, often abduct students for money.