Nigerian military in firefight with gunmen who kidnapped students

Nigerian military troops salute Nigeria's President during his visit to troops on front lines of Boko Haram conflict, on November 28, 2018, in Maiduguri as part of a military staff annual conference. - Nigeria's President urged troops to show more commitment in fighting Boko Haram despite scores of losses in a recent assault as he visited the key northeastern city of Maiduguri. (Photo by Audu MARTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read AUDU MARTE/AFP/Getty Images)
File Photo: Nigerian military troops.  (Photo by Audu MARTE / AFP/Getty Images)

The Nigerian military located and exchanged fire with the gunmen who had kidnapped scores of secondary students in northwestern Katsina state, a statement from the president said on Saturday.

The gunmen, armed with AK-47s raided the Government Science secondary school in Kankara district at about 9:40 pm on Friday, according to police and locals.

A parent and school employee told Reuters that roughly half of the school’s 800 students were missing.

According to a statement from President Muhammadu Buhari, the military had located the kidnappers in a forest and was exchanging fire with them aided by air support.

Police at the scene on Friday exchanged fire with the attackers, allowing some students to run for safety, police spokesman Gambo Isah said in a statement.

Buhari condemned the attack in his home state.

Police and the military were still working to determine how many were kidnapped and missing.

Police said they would deploy additional forces to support the search and rescue.

One officer was shot and wounded in the exchange of fire with the gang, according to the police.

Katsina is plagued by violence the government attributes to bandits – a loose term for gangs of outlaws who attack locals and kidnap for ransom. Attacks by Islamist militants are common in northeastern parts of the country.

Violence and insecurity across Nigeria have enraged citizens, particularly after scores of farmers were killed, some beheaded, by Islamist militants in northeast Borno state late last month.