Armed bandits raid Nigerian school, police hunt for missing students

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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Bandits armed with assault rifles attacked a secondary school in Nigeria's northwestern Katsina state late on Friday, police said, and two local people told Reuters hundreds of students were missing.

The gunmen stormed the Government Science secondary school in Kankara district at about 9.40 p.m., and police at the scene returned fire, allowing some students to run for safety, police spokesman Gambo Isah said in a statement.

Police said they were working with the army and air force to determine how many pupils were missing or kidnapped, and to find them. One officer was shot and wounded in the exchange of fire with the gang, they said.

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There were chaotic scenes at the school on Saturday as desperate parents and security personnel gathered to search for roughly half of the school's 800 students who were still missing, one parent and a school employee told Reuters.

Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, is plagued by violent bandits who regularly 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.

Buhari, who arrived on Friday for a week in his home village some 200 km (125 miles) from Kankara, was scheduled to brief the national assembly on the security situation last week, but cancelled the appearance without official explanation.

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Reporting by Maiduguri newsroom Additional reporting by Nneka Chile in Lagos and Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi Writing by Libby George Editing by Helen Popper

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