LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Gunmen in Nigeria abducted nine students on their way home from an Islamic school in the country's northwest, two days after a mass school abduction took place in a neighboring state, police said Thursday.

The students were kidnapped earlier this week in Katsina state, police spokesman Isah Gambo told The Associated Press.

They were whisked away by the bandits on motorcycles into a nearby forested area, according to Hassan Muawuya, a resident.

The new abduction in Katsina raises fresh concerns over the ability of Nigeria’s security agencies to provide adequate security in Africa’s most populous nation particularly in its northern states, where such armed groups often attack remote communities.

The kidnapping in Katsina took place the same day that the state Gov. Aminu Bello Masari urged residents to buy guns to defend themselves from criminal attacks in a state and country where the private use of guns is rare.

Katsina, the home state of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, is only one of six states where school abductions have occurred in the country since December 2020 when Nigeria started to witness a spike in mass school kidnappings in its northern states.

Over 1,000 students have been forcibly taken from their schools during those attacks, according to an AP tally of figures previously confirmed by the police. Although most of those kidnapped have been released, many are still held by their abductors.

In Zamfara State, where 19 persons including 15 students were abducted from a school on Sunday, local media reported Wednesday that their abductors demanded a ransom equivalent to more than $850,000 for the students to be freed.

The kidnappers in Nigeria’s north are believed to be mostly former cattle herders seeking cash from the ransoms. They move on motorcycles in large groups, often more than 100, and operate in the forests of northwestern Nigeria, making it difficult for police and security to track them down.