Terrorist group Boko haram on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of school students in Katsina state, northwestern Nigeria.
In a voice message, leader of the jihadist group who was also behind the 2014 abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok said his brothers were behind the kidnapping.
“I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in Katsina,” he said.
Hundreds of students are still unaccounted with conflicting reports throwing up different numbers of those kidnapped since the attack late Friday on the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in the state.
The attack was initially blamed on armed bandits who are active in the unstable region where kidnappings for ransom are common.
The army said Monday it had located the hideout of the men, and that a military operation was underway.
More than 100 gunmen on motorcycles stormed the rural school north of Kankara town, forcing students to flee and hide in the surrounding bush.
Residents told AFP that a number of boys were able to escape, but many were captured, split into groups, and taken away.
The kidnappings occurred in the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, who condemned the attack and ordered security stepped up in schools, with those in Katsina state closed.
Tuesday’s claim of responsibility marks a major turning point in the advance of jihadist groups in northwest Nigeria.
Boko Haram, and a splinter group the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), are waging an insurgency in Nigeria northeast and are thought to have only a minor presence in the northwest.
But concerns have grown of jihadist inroads into the region, especially after fighters claiming to be in the northwest released a 2020 propaganda video pledging allegiance to Boko Haram’s leader.
Buhari has made the fight against the group a priority, but the security situation in northern Nigeria has deteriorated since his 2015 election.