Gunmen believed to belong to a criminal gang kidnapped hundreds of schoolboys and some teachers in Kagara, Niger state in central Nigeria, an official and a security source said on Wednesday.

The attackers wearing military uniforms stormed the Government Science College in “huge numbers” late on Tuesday, herding the captives into a nearby forest, the sources said.

‘We are wholeheartedly broken’: Nigerian town devastated by mass kidnapping of schoolboys
One pupil was killed during the kidnapping, the official said.

Northwest and central Nigeria have increasingly been targets of criminal gangs who kidnap for ransom, rape and pillage across the region.

“Bandits went into GSC Kagara last night and kidnapped hundreds of students and their teachers,” an official said.

“One of the kidnapped staff and some students managed to escape. The staff confirmed a student was shot dead during the kidnap operation,” the official said.

About 1,000 pupils attend the school and it was not known how many were taken. The security source confirmed the details of the attack and said a headcount was under way.

Troops with aerial support were tracking the bandits for possible rescue, the security source said.

Two months ago, hundreds of schoolboys were abducted in northwestern Katsina state and released days later after negotiations with the government.

The gangs are driven by financial motives and have no ideological leanings but security officials fear they are being infiltrated by extremists from Nigeria’s northeast, where the army is battling a decade-long insurgency.

Meanwhile the State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, has ordered the immediate closure of all boarding schools in Rafi, Munya, Shiroro and Mariga Local Government Areas of the State.

Bello took the decision following the abduction of some students of the Government Science College (GSC) Kagara, in Niger State.

It was gathered that gunmen stormed the school in military uniform and kidnapped the students on Wednesday morning.

Reacting in a tweet on the official Twitter page of the state Governor, Bello said, ”Flash: The Niger State Government has directed the immediate closure of All Boarding Schools in Rafi, Munya, Shiroro and Mariga Local Government Areas as a result of the insecurity situation in the areas.”