Audio indicates Boko Haram behind Nigeria school kidnapping

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An audio message from a man identifying himself as leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram said the Islamist group was responsible for kidnapping over 300 students from an all-boys school in the north-western state Katsina.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has waged an insurgency in north-east Nigeria since 2009 but has not previously claimed any attacks in the north-west.

The man purporting to be the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, offered no proof for the claim. Reuters was unable to verify the audio and Nigerian authorities did not immediately comment.

In a region where criminal gangs rob and kidnap civilians for ransom, gunmen took the boys from the Government Science school in Kankara town on Friday. Katsina state authorities say some escaped but around 320 are still missing.

“We are behind what happened in Katsina,” said the man on the audio, which reached Reuters via a Whatsapp message.

“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his holy prophet.”

No video footage was released of the missing boys.

Analysts warned West Africa’s porous borders mean other Islamist groups operating in the wider Sahel region could form alliances with jihadists in north-east Nigeria.

Boko Haram carried out the 2014 kidnap of over 200 girls from a school in the north-eastern town Chibok. Since then, about half those girls were found or freed, dozens paraded in propaganda videos and an unknown number are believed dead.