More than 300 schoolgirls have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a school in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state, police say.
Security officers have been dispatched to the town of Jangebe where the girls were seized early on Friday morning.
Local officials have confirmed the attack but have not given more details.
This is the latest mass abduction targeting schools in recent weeks. Armed gangs often seize schoolchildren for ransom.
At least 42 people, including 27 students, who were kidnapped last week in Kagara, in neighbouring Niger state, are yet to be released.
The 2014 kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in the north-eastern town of Chibok by Islamist militants Boko Haram brought global attention to the scourge of raids on schools in Nigeria but the most recent attacks are suspected to be the work of criminal gangs.
How did the attack happen?
Friday’s attack happened at 01:00 local time (midnight GMT) when a group of gunmen arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe town with pick-up vehicles and motorcycles, a teacher told news site Punch.
Some of the gunmen were dressed as government security forces, the report said, adding that they forced the schoolgirls in the vehicles.
But other witnesses have told the BBC that the armed men arrived on foot at the school.
The witness told BBC Hausa that more than 100 gunmen entered the school.
“They broke the school gate and shot at the security man. Then they moved into the hostels and woke up the girls, telling them it was time for prayers. After gathering all of them, the girls were crying and they took them away to the forest. They were also shooting in the air as they were marching to the forest,” the witness said.
Distraught parents have gathered outside the school and some have gone out into the bush to look for their daughters, witnesses say.
What have the authorities said?
A statement from the police said its officers and a military contingent have been deployed to Jangebe to search for the 317 abducted girls.
The UN children’s agency Unicef said it was ”angered and saddened” by yet another mass abduction of students in Nigeria describing it as ”brutal” and a ”violation of children’s rights.”
Who was behind the attack?
No group has claimed responsibility and their identity is unknown.
Armed groups operating in Zamfara often kidnap for ransom but when gunmen took more than 300 boys from Kankara in neighbouring Katsina state in December last year, some reports claimed that Boko Haram, which operates hundreds of miles away in the north-east, was behind the attack.
The claims was later disputed and the boys released after negotiations.