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Boko Haram Terrorists leader, Shekau, in claiming responsibility for abduction of Kankara students, signals resumption of hostilities in Northwest Nigeria

The factional leader of the dreaded Boko Haram Terrorists, Abubakar Shekau, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the abduction of students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, marking the first time the terrorists group has acknowledged carrying out operations in the Northwest region of the country.

Shekau, in an audio message first published by HumAngle, stated that the abduction was carried out to ‘promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices.’

The Boko Haram sees Western educations as “haram,” the Hausa word for abomination and has been fighting against enrolling Muslims in non-Islamic schools.

In fact, on Monday, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III led Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), said that the only thing worse than the abduction of the students “is the fact that this is the most potent action to frustrate school enrolment in Northern Nigeria, as no parent will forthwith be comfortable to send their children or wards to boarding school despite the many enrolment campaign efforts by the Government.”

Until the claim by Boko Haram terrorists, most of the killings, kidnapping and cattle rustlings in the region carried out by bandits, though many had suspected the presence of the terrorists in the zone.

Until the foray into the Northwest, Boko Haram and its splinter group, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists had carried out mass-scale abductions of Secondary School students in the Northeast States of Yobe and Borno.

For example, in April 2014, about 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, who were preparing for their final exams were kidnapped by the insurgents. The attack and abduction led to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, an international campaign embraced by then U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

Four years after, On February 19, 2018 at 5:30 pm, 110 schoolgirls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) Dapchi, located in Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government area of Yobe State, Northeast part of the country.

Five schoolgirls reportedly died on the same day of their kidnapping while others were released in March 2018 except Leah Sharibu who was said to have been held by the abductors for refusing to renounce Christianity.

In claiming responsibility for the abduction of the students, Shekau stated that “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.

“They are also not teaching what Allah and his Holy Prophet commanded. They are rather destroying Islam. It may be subtle, but Allah the Lord of the skies and earths knows whatever is hidden.

May Allah promote Islam. May we die as Muslims. In a nutshell, we are behind what happened in Katsina.”

Generally, there has been conflicting figures on the actual number of students abducted last Friday night. But the State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, had confirmed that his government was negotiating with the abductors.

It is, however, not clear if the discussion revolves around ransom or the abductors made a different demand.

Hundreds of children were shepherded into the bush by dozens of gun-wielding bandits who stormed their hostels at night on Friday.

After studying the school register, Abuja-based Daily Trust had exclusively reported on Monday that 668 students were still missing while Governor Masari had told a federal government delegation that only 333 students were missing.

The Governor, in the company of his deputy, Manir Yakubu also visited visited President Buhari who was holidaying at his country home, Daura.

He was quoted by have told the President that steady progress was being recorded to bring back the abducted schoolboys unharmed.

Masari, who said security agencies had located the position of the children, added that the President was fully committed to the rescue of the school children.

Sources said that the abducted students are being kept in clusters in the forests that stretch parts of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States.

It is also worthy to note that there has been conflicting narratives about the abduction of the schoolboys from federal government security officials and agencies.

For example, on Saturday, military authorities said they were engaging the bandits while the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi, said on Sunday that the students would be rescued within hours.

A source with knowledge of what is happening said the federal government was trying to avoid bloodshed, which would be inevitable when force is deployed.

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