Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday strongly condemned the latest mass kidnapping of students in Nigeria and demanded unconditional release of them.

Late Thursday night, some 30 female and male students as well as several school staff, were reportedly abducted by gunmen from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, just outside Kaduna city in the Igabi local government area, which marks at least the fourth students kidnap in the country since December.

While some students have reportedly been rescued by Nigerian security forces, the UN chief called for “the immediate and unconditional release of those students that remain in captivity,” his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric told journalist at a regular press briefing.

“The secretary-General underscores that schools must remain safe spaces for children to learn without fear of violence or kidnapping or any other attacks on them,” Dujarric said, adding that “attacks on schools and other educational facilities constitute a grave violation of children’s rights and human rights more broadly.”

The UN chief “urges the authorities to safeguard schools and to ensure the right to education in a safe environment,” Dujarric added.

Last week, 279 schoolgirls were freed after being snatched from their boarding school at Jangebe, in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state. Weeks before, dozens of children and staff were taken from a boarding school and in December, more than 300 boys were abducted.

Fears are growing that a so-called “kidnapping industry” is continuing to expand across northern Nigeria. In 2014, the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram’s attack on the Chibok secondary school in Borno state sparked international outcry and prompted the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Of the 276 girls taken then, more than 100 are reportedly still missing nearly seven years later.

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