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Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya faction's claimed kidnapping of more than 300 schoolboys in Katsina state indicates expansion of Islamist militancy to northwest Nigeria

More than 300 schoolboys were kidnapped during an attack by at least 100 armed gunmen on motorcycles at Government Science Secondary School in Kankara town in the northwestern Nigerian state of Katsina in on 11 December. An armed clash broke out between security forces present in the town and the assailants, causing students to flee and hide in the surrounding bushes and forested areas. In an audio message released on 15 December, responsibility for the attack was claimed by Mohammed Abubakar bin Mohammad (alias ‘Abubakar Shekau’), the leader of the dissident Jamaat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Dawa wal-Jihad (JAS), a faction of the Islamic State’s Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya that was formerly better known as Boko Haram. According to the Daily Nigerian newspaper, Shekau claimed that the militants had abducted the schoolboys to “promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his Holy Prophet”. There are conflicting media reports on how many students were kidnapped, but Nigerian media platform HumAngle reported on 15 December that the dissident faction had declared that it currently held 523 students in captivity in light of the confusion.

A parent sits outside the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Katsina, where gunmen kidnapped more than 300 schoolboys on 11 December 2020. (Kola Sulaimon/contributor/AFP via Getty Images)

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