JANGEBE, Nigeria—Suwaida Sani was one of the lucky few.
When dozens of heavily armed gunmen stormed through the gates of her boarding school spraying bullets into the air in the early hours of Friday morning, they demanded every student file into the courtyard or be shot.
Suwaida ran in the other direction, crouching under a mosquito net and trembling as flashlight beams traced the wall above her head. When the 13-year-old emerged from her hiding place the next morning, the gunmen had abducted more than 300 of her schoolmates between the ages of 11 and 17 and marched them into a nearby forest. It was the largest abduction of schoolgirls in the history of a country where such kidnappings are becoming familiar.
“They were searching for anyone hiding, but thank God they didn’t see me,” said Suwaida, safely sitting between her parents in the living room of their single-story home. “So many of my friends have been taken I can’t even count the number,” she said through tears. “May God spare them.”
The abduction from the Government Girls Secondary School in the small town of Jangebe is the second in a little over a week in Nigeria’s northwest, where a surge in armed militancy has led to a worsening breakdown of security and where kidnap for ransom has become a lucrative industry.