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'The stuff of nightmares': Breaking down Nigeria's kidnapping epidemic
02:20 - Source: CNN
Abuja, Nigeria CNN  — 

At least 26 students and a teacher have been rescued after armed men raided a private secondary school in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna State early Monday and kidnapped scores of people, said police.

Officials from the school in Kaduna’s Chikun district told Agence France-Presse news agency that no fewer than 140 students were captured and taken to an unknown destination by the attackers.

Kaduna police, however, have said that the definitive number of abducted students has yet to be ascertained.

Regional police spokesman Mohammed Jalige told CNN Monday that the gunmen, locally referred to as “bandits,” took an unspecified number of schoolchildren from Bethel Baptist High School, Kujuma, at around 1:45 a.m. local time. Nobody was killed in the raid, the spokesman said.

Jalige said that 26 students and a female teacher have so far been rescued after “operatives gave the bandits a hot pursuit.”

“The rescue operation continues,” Jalige said earlier on Monday. “We are liaising with the school’s management to get the exact number of people that were kidnapped.”

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Local authorities have directed the immediate closure of 13 schools in the state, including Bethel Baptist, to avoid further attacks.

Reports of nurse kidnapped with baby

This raid followed a similar attack on a federal medical facility in the city of Zaria, located less than two hours from Chikun, in the early hours of Sunday.

Jalige said about eight people were kidnapped by an armed gang from the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Quarters in Zaria. The police spokesman could not immediately confirm multiple reports that some of those abducted from the medical facility were nurses and a baby.

A hospital spokesperson told Reuters that six people had been abducted in that raid. They were two nurses, one with her 1-year-old child, a laboratory technician, a security guard and one other staff member, according to the spokesperson.

Jalige told CNN that during the hospital attack, another group of gunmen “attempted to overrun” a police base in the area but were swiftly repelled, adding that a rescue team was working to ensure the release of those abducted.

Kidnappings for ransom have escalated in northern Nigeria, where hundreds of schoolchildren have been taken since December. Kaduna, which is fast becoming the epicenter of school abductions in northern Nigeria, has witnessed a string of kidnappings since January.

Five students from Greenfield University in Kaduna were killed by their captors shortly after their abduction in late April.