Abuja: At least 21 schoolchildren in Nigeria have been rescued hours after they were abducted by armed groups in West African country’s troubled northwestern region, police said. The schoolchildren were abducted on Friday while they were traveling with their teacher from Bakura area to an Islamic school in neighboring Katsina state, police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said in a statement over weekend. 

Security forces responded and rescued 21 students and are “currently working to rescue remaining victims and apprehend perpetrators,” Shehu said. He did not say how many hostages are still being held but said assailants seized travelers from as many as five vehicles, suggesting there are many more still in captivity.

Children have often been targeted in northwestern Nigeria in attacks by armed groups on rural communities far from protection of security forces who are often outgunned and outnumbered. A day after attack on  schoolchildren, the Nigeria Air Force launched “successful” airstrikes targeting camps of gunmen in Zamfara state, senior official Edward Gabkwet told The Associated Press on Monday. 

He said number of those killed in airstrikes has not been confirmed.“We are going to go after each and every one of them (the gunmen) until all Nigerians feel safe to go about their normal businesses,” he said. On Sunday, another group of bandits killed six rural residents in several attacks in Kaduna state which neighbors Nigeria’s capital city, according to Samuel Aruwan, the state commissioner for internal security.

The large bands of assailants mostly consist of young men from the Fulani ethnic group, who had traditionally worked as nomadic cattle herders and are caught up in a decades-long conflict with Hausa farming communities over access to water and grazing land.             

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