Security forces in northwest Nigeria’s Katsina state are searching for 21 teenagers, most of them girls, who were abducted by gunmen from a farm Sunday and are being held for ransom.
Katsina state spokesperson Gambo Isah said police have launched a joint rescue operation with the military and other security agencies in the state to rescue the captives.
He said the victims include 17 females and four males between 15 and 18 years old. The teens were working on a farm between the villages of Kamfanin Mailafiya and Kurmim Doka on Sunday when armed men invaded and took them away.
“In the local government area where the incident happened we have a unit of the military there. So we are working assiduously with the view of [rescuing] the victims alive and unhurt by the special grace of God,” Isah told VOA over the phone.
A local village chief told Reuters news agency that the kidnappers are demanding about $68,000 in ransom.
Such large-scale kidnappings have become all too common in Nigeria over the past two years, with armed gangs known locally as bandits abducting scores of people at a time, and demanding huge sums for their release.
In December 2020, more than 300 pupils were kidnapped from a boys secondary boarding school in Katsina state. They were released after a week in captivity, and the government insisted no ransom was paid.
The kidnappings and general insecurity have sparked criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari and the government. Officials say they are doing everything they can keep Nigerians safe.