KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Video surfaced on Saturday of some of the students abducted from a university in northwestern Nigeria, showing them crouching on the floor of a forest as armed captors beat them with sticks.
Thirty-nine students are missing after gunmen stormed the Federal College of Forest Mechanization in Kaduna state during the night of Thursday, the fourth kidnapping from a school in northern Nigeria since December.
Video images shared on social media showed approximately two dozen students asking for help in English and Hausa. One says the captors want a 500 million naira ($ 1.31 million) ransom.
“If someone comes to rescue them without the money, they will kill us,” says a student in the video as a man with a gun stands behind him.
University rector Bello Mohammed Usman and the mother of a student abducted on Saturday identified those shown in the video as some of the abducted students, including a pregnant woman. Usman declined to comment on the ransom request.
Abubakar Sadiq, executive secretary of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, said he was unaware of the video and had no authority to comment on the ransom demand.
Earlier on Saturday, Kaduna State Security Commissioner Samuel Aruwan said nine more students had disappeared than previously thought: 23 women and 16 men.
“The Kaduna state government maintains close communication with the university administration, as security agencies maintain efforts to track down the missing students,” Aruwan said.
The armed gang stormed the school, located on the outskirts of Kaduna city, near a military academy, around 11:30 pm (2230 GMT) on Thursday. Aruwan said another 180 students and staff members who were staying at the school were rescued early Friday.
Attacks by gangs of armed men, known as bandits, have intensified for several years, and military and police attempts to combat the gangs have met with little success. Many are concerned that state authorities will make the situation worse by letting kidnappers go unpunished, paying them, or giving them incentives.
In a statement Saturday, President Muhammadu Buhari urged that the missing students be found and returned safely to their families.
Gloria Paul said she recognized her 20-year-old daughter, Joy Kurmi Paul, in the video, wearing a pink headscarf. Outside of school on Saturday, the mother asked for help.
“Please, the government should help us free them without hurting them,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
(1 dollar = 380.5500 naira)
Information from Garba Muhammad, additional information from the Maiduguri and Felix Onuah newsroom in Abuja. Written by Libby George, edited by Alexandra Hudson, Rosalind Russell and Clelia Oziel