LAGOS –Jihadist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian schoolchildren, according to local media.

More than 300 students were kidnapped from a school in Katsina State by gunmen with assault rifles on Friday night.

Online newspaper The Daily Nigerian reported it had received an audio message from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau saying that his group abducted the schoolboys because Western education is against the tenets of Islam.

“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his holy prophet,” the paper quoted Shekau as saying.

There has been no independent verification of the audio message.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement on Monday that “the kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already on pertaining to safety and return” of the children. Shehu said nothing about the identify of the abductors.

Boko Haram has in the past abducted students from their schools. The worst incident was in 2014, when more than 370 female students were abducted from a school in Chibok.

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