UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Friday called for the immediate release of several hundred schoolgirls kidnapped from a secondary school in northwest Nigeria.
"The secretary-general strongly condemns the abduction of over 300 girls during an attack today on a secondary school in Zamfara State, Nigeria," said a statement issued by Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN chief.
"The secretary-general calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted children and for their safe return to their families. He reiterates that attacks on schools and other educational facilities constitute a grave violation of the rights of children and human rights more broadly. He stresses that schools must remain safe spaces for children to learn without fear of violence," the statement added.
"The secretary-general urges the Nigerian authorities to spare no efforts in bringing those responsible for this crime to justice," it said. "The secretary-general reaffirms the solidarity and support of the United Nations to the Government and people of Nigeria in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime."
Peter Hawkins, representative of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the country, urged the assailants to let the teenagers go immediately.
"We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria," Hawkins said. "This is a gross violation of children's rights and a horrific experience for children to go through -- one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and well-being."
The president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, tweeted, "I am shocked by today's kidnapping of 317 girls from their school in northwest Nigeria. This is the 3rd mass abduction of children since December in the country."
"No child anywhere should be afraid to go to school. I hope the girls are unharmed and will be freed soon," he wrote.
Scores of students were abducted by gunmen who stormed an all-girls school in Nigeria's northwestern state of Zamfara on early Friday, a local official said.
Abubakar Dauran, Zamfara state commissioner of security and home affairs, who confirmed the information to reporters in the state capital of Gusau, said the gunmen abducted the female students of the Government Girls' Secondary School at Jangebe town in the Talata Mafara local government area of the state.