dpa/GNA – At least 44 people, most of them children, have been abducted from a school in west-central Nigeria, a local government official said on Wednesday.

One pupil was killed when unknown gunmen attacked a school near the community of Kagara in Niger State on Wednesday morning, a local government spokesperson told dpa on condition of anonymity.

Among the kidnapped were 26 pupils, three staff members and 12 family members of the school staff, the spokesperson said.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday dispatched a rescue mission made up of armed forces and police to the area to hunt down the kidnappers and free the pupils.

The exact number of abductees still needed to be ascertained, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

The security forces would work in collaboration with local government officials, community leaders, the school and the parents to secure the safe return of those kidnapped, Shehu said.

The abduction comes three days after unknown gunmen kidnapped some 20 people on their way home from a wedding in the same state.

Mass abductions are common in the West African nation. They are sometimes conducted by Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which uses young girls as suicide bombers or marries them off to their fighters, while boys are used as child soldiers.

At other times, kidnappings are conducted by criminal gangs for ransom.

In December, Boko Haram abducted more than 300 boys from a school in north-western Katsina State, saying they had carried it out because Western education runs counter to Islam. The children were however released shortly after the kidnapping.

For years Boko Haram has been fighting to install strict Islamic rule in Nigeria. The group was responsible for the 2014 abduction of 276 female students from their dormitory at a school in Chibok, an attack that shocked the world. At least 100 of those girls are still missing.

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