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Zamfara schoolgirls held in Dangulbi Forest as negotiations to free them begins

The over 300 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Junior Secondary School Jangebe, Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State in the early hours of Friday have been sighted at Dangulbi Forest, credible sources have confirmed.

A school teacher had told the Abuja-based Daily Trust that out of 600 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, only about 50 were left behind.

However, the Police in the State said 317 students were kidnapped while the Zamfara State Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Sulaiman Tunau Anka, said the exact number of abducted students was yet to be ascertained.

But security personnel and officials of the Zamfara State government have established the identity of the girls’ abductors and that the window of engagement was being opened to discuss with the armed bandits.

“The schoolgirls are being held at Dangulbi Forest in Maru Local Government Area,” one of the sources said.

The source, who craved for anonymity because he had no permission to speak on the incident, said they mystery behind the abduction would come to the fore soon.

The forests between Dangulbi and Maru are known enclave of bandits who for years have been terrorising residents of neighbouring villages.

The Zamfara State government said security operatives have launched a manhunt for the criminals. Governor Bello Matawalle has been pushing for a dialogue with bandits for peace to reign while the abduction happened hours after the state government said some repentant bandits had surrendered their arms.

Meanwhile, seven out of the 317 students were said to have escaped from their captors and arrived home Friday evening.

A resident close to the school, Mallam Sani Jangebe, said the bandits, who came in about seven vehicles, one of which had a GPMG-like rifle mounted on it, were in war mood, with some wearing military uniforms.

He said: “They started with shouting, followed by sporadic shootings towards all directions before we began to hear our children in the school helplessly screaming for rescue, as the bandits forced them into the parked vehicles.”

Father of one of those abducted, Alhaji Bello Maikusa Jangebe, said the sounds of gunshots woke up the entire town at around 1:30am, adding: “We thought they have come to attack residents, as they usually do. Unfortunately, this time around, they aimed at the students and abducted about 327 of them. Later, we noticed that only few of the students were left behind.”

Some residents of the community said the bandits drove away with the abducted students towards the direction of Wuya Forest in Maru Council, one of the most dangerous axis the criminals have long occupied.

A guardian of one of the victims, Mallam Sa’idu Kwairo, also said the gunmen drove into the town well armed in about seven Toyota Hilux vehicles, shooting sporadically to scare off any attempt for resistance.

“We could hear the helpless voices of the abducted girls screaming for help amidst unpleasant sounds of various dangerous rifles, as we noticed they had come to abduct the students in the school,” Kwairo added.

This came eight days after gunmen kidnapped dozens of students and workers and family members of Government Science College (GSC), Kagara, Niger State.

Bandits had earlier kidnapped travellers in a vehicle belonging to the state transport authority, who were released on Tuesday.

Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abutu Yaro; the Force Commander, Operations Hadarin Daji, Maj-Gen. Aminu Bande; Commander, 1 Brigade of Nigeria Army in Gusau and other state government officials, led a heavily armed re-enforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to have been taken to.

Yaro, while interfacing with the Principal of the school and parents, appealled to them to remain calm, as joint efforts of the Police and other security agencies would assuredly lead to the rescue of the students.

Spokesperson of the State Police Command, Mr. Shehu Muhammad, said the Police, in collaboration with the military, have commenced a joint search and rescue operations to free the students.

Muhammad, in a press statement, said the Command was working hard to ensure protection of lives and properties of the people.

Following the incident, Governor Bello Matawalle, has ordered the closure of all boarding schools in the state.

The Governor, who gave the directive in a broadcast, yesterday, said: “As we are making efforts to strengthen security around our schools, I have directed the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools across the State.”

First published in Daily Trust

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