Gunmen have attacked Nigeria’s elite military academy, killing two officers and kidnapping another in a brazen assault on a symbol of the armed forces.
The raid on Tuesday on the Nigerian Defence Academy, the country’s main officer training school, is a major blow for a military already struggling with an armed uprising and heavily armed criminal gangs.
“The security architecture of the Nigerian Defence Academy was compromised early this morning by unknown gunmen,” said Major Bashir Muhammad Jajira, spokesman for the academy in the northwestern state of Kaduna.
“We lost two personnel and one was abducted.”
Various army units and security agencies were pursuing the attackers and trying to rescue the kidnap victim, Jajira said.
The high-security base, located just outside the state capital Kaduna, trains Nigerian officers and also cadets from other African militaries.
No group claimed responsibility, but Nigeria is facing a threat from rebels and large criminal gangs that raid villages, steal cattle and carry out mass kidnappings for ransom.
Attacks and kidnappings have surged in recent months, especially in north-central and northwest Nigeria, partly driven by economic hardship linked to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by the impunity enjoyed by most perpetrators.
Kaduna state, located north of the federal capital Abuja, has been the scene of mass abductions at schools and other acts of violence against communities, along with other states such as Niger, Zamfara and Katsina.
The Nigerian government has said it is winning the battle against the criminals it describes as bandits.
However, many Nigerians have stopped travelling through rural areas for fear of being abducted, many pupils have dropped out of school, and many parents are driven to desperate measures to raise ransoms to have their kidnapped children freed.