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Mass school abduction foiled in Nigeria

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Security forces have foiled an attempt to kidnap hundreds of schoolboys in northwestern Nigeria, a state official said on Sunday, days after dozens of students were seized in the latest mass abduction.

The kidnapping of 39 students on Thursday was the most recent in a string of abductions complicating the security challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari's security forces, who are also battling a more than decade-long Islamist insurgency in the northeast.

"Between the late hours of Saturday night and the early hours of today, suspected bandits stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Ikara... in an attempt to kidnap students," Samuel Aruwan, state home affairs commissioner said of the foiled attack in a statement.

"Fortunately, the students utilized the security warning system in place, and were thus able to alert security forces in the area", he said.

He said a joint security force, comprising soldiers, policemen and vigilantes, deployed to the school and "engaged the bandits, forcing them to flee".

The military managed to rescue 180 students, including eight staff members, after a fierce battle with the gunmen.

Heavily armed gangs in the northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years.

They have recently turned their focus to schools, where they kidnap students or schoolchildren for ransom -- Thursday's abduction was at least the fourth such attack since December.

Aruwan said all 307 students in the school targeted on Saturday had been accounted for after a headcount.

"The attempted kidnap was foiled completely and no student was taken from the school."

On Saturday, local media published a video of some of the 39 students who were kidnapped on Thursday from the outskirts of Kaduna city appealing to the government to rescue them without violence.

The recording was purportedly sent through a Facebook account of one of the hostages.

They appeared to be in a forest, surrounded by gunmen in military uniform. The video could not be independently verified.

Aruwan said the government was committed to freeing the hostages.

"As a government, our focus is on getting back our missing students and preventing further episodes of school abductions," he said.