A hundred and ten girls are missing after an attack on a school in north-east Nigeria by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, the information ministry said, in what may be one of the largest abductions since the Chibok kidnappings of 2014.
The Islamist militant group attained international notoriety after abducting more than 270 schoolgirls from Chibok. That case drew global attention to the insurgency and spawned the high profile social media campaign Bring Back Our Girls.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the 75-year-old former military ruler elected in 2015 after vowing to crush Boko Haram, described the disappearance of the girls after the attack in Dapchi as a “national disaster”.
The insurgents drove into the town of Dapchi last Monday and attacked the girls’ school, sending hundreds of students fleeing. Some attackers were camouflaged, with witnesses stating a number of students thought they were soldiers.
“The federal government confirms 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi are so far unaccounted for, after insurgents believed to be from a faction of Boko Haram invaded their school,” the information ministry said in a statement.
There was confusion over the number missing, with estimates ranging from about 50 to more than 100. State police, Yobe government and others gave different figures while a parent representing families of girls who disappeared told Reuters 105 were missing.
Yobe state government added to the confusion when it said dozens of girls were rescued, only to issue a statement the next day saying the schoolgirls were mostly still unaccounted for, sparking anger among locals.
The Nigerian Air Force said the chief of air staff “directed the immediate deployment of additional air assets and Nigerian Air Force personnel to the north-east with the sole mission of conducting day and night searches for the missing girls”.
“Renewed efforts at locating the girls are being conducted in close liaison with surface security forces.”
Information Minister Lai Mohammed, part of a delegation of ministers who met parents and teachers in Dapchi and announced the number of missing girls, said police and security officials were deployed to schools in the state.