The Islamic terror group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the kidnapping of nearly 700 students from a secondary school in northern Nigeria on December 11.
The Nigerian militant group released a four-minute audio clip on Tuesday in which a man identifying himself as Boko Haram’s leader, Abubaker Shekau, said he and his fellow jihadis were responsible for the abduction of an estimated 668 schoolboys in the town of Kankara, located in northern Nigeria’s Katsina State, over the weekend.
“Our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina,” a voice on the recording identifying himself as Shekau said, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
“Multiple [Nigerian] military sources said security officials are investigating the claim,” the news agency added.
“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his Holy Prophet,” the man further stated in the recording, according to Nigeria’s Daily Trust on Tuesday.
“They are also not teaching what Allah and his Holy Prophet commanded. They are rather destroying Islam. It may be subtle, but Allah the lord of the skies and earths knows whatever is hidden. May Allah promote Islam. May we die as Muslims,” the man added.
A large number of gunmen ambushed the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in Kankara on the night of December 11.
“Residents and survivors said the abductors rode to the school in about 100 motorbikes, firing assault rifles to escape into the bush after dividing the boys into groups,” Anadolu Agency revealed on Tuesday.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari — who has repeatedly claimed that Boko Haram is defeated — ordered a rescue operation over the weekend, deploying Nigerian Army troops and helicopters to comb the Katsina area for the abducted students. The kidnappers on Monday demanded that the military call off its search of Katsina area forests and neighboring villages.
“The apparent kidnappers are making a demand via a teacher at [the] school,” Abdu Labaran, the director-general of media for the Katsina state governor’s office, said, according to CNN.
“The abductors of the Kankara students have contacted a teacher and asked him to tell the government to stop the helicopter surveillance. They have not asked for ransom,” Labaran said.
“At least 17 of the students were rescued on Monday after a gun battle between military forces and the armed group, according to Aminu Masari, Katsina’s governor,” Anadolu Agency reported.
The Boko Haram attack marks the terror group’s third mass abduction of students in a little over a decade since it began an Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria. The jihadi group abducted at least 276 schoolgirls from a government school in Chibok in 2014. Most of the girls kidnapped from Chibok, located in the Boko Haram stronghold of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, remain missing today.