Nigerian families await news of 300 kidnapped schoolgirls

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Father Aliyu Ladan Jangebe, whose four daughters are among more than 300 girls who were abducted by gunmen on Friday from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School, waits for news in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, northern Nigeria Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. Families in Nigeria waited anxiously on Sunday for news of their abducted daughters, the latest in a series of mass kidnappings of school students in the West African nation. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Mansur)

JANGEBE – Families in Nigeria waited anxiously for news of their abducted daughters after more than 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by gunmen from a government school in the country's north last week, the latest in a series of mass school kidnappings in the West African nation.

Worried parents on Sunday gathered at the school, guarded by police. Aliyu Ladan Jangebe said his five daughters aged between 12 and 16 were at the school when the kidnappers stormed in. Four were taken away but one escaped by hiding in a bathroom with three other girls, he told The Associated Press.

“We are not in (a) good mood because when you have five children and you are able to secure (just) one. We only thank God ... But we are not happy,” said Jangebe.

“We cannot imagine their situation,” he said of his missing daughters. Residents of a nearby village said the kidnappers had herded the girls through the town like animals, he said.

One resident said the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from responding to the mass abduction.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the government’s priority is to get all the hostages returned safe and unharmed. Police and the military have begun joint operations to rescue the girls, said Mohammed Shehu, a police spokesman in Zamfara state.

The girls’ abduction has caused international outrage.

Pope Francis decried the kidnapping and prayed for the girls’ quick release, during his public address in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.