“The gunmen who kidnapped Greenfield University students shot dead three of the kidnapped students,” said Samuel Aruwan, commissioner of the State Department of Homeland Security and Internal Affairs in Kaduna, in a statement posted on Facebook.

Aruwan said the remains of the three kidnapped students were found on Friday in the village of Kwanan Bature, near the university.

At least 20 students and three employees of Greenfield University, a private academic institution in Kaduna, northwestern Nigeria, were abducted by gunmen on Tuesday evening, an official told CNN on Thursday.

The governor of Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai, condemned the murder of three students as “mere malice, inhumanity and total desecration of human life by hideous beings”. He went on to say that the armed bandits represent the worst of humanity and must be fought at all costs.

Ransom kidnappings have increased in Kaduna and other parts of northern Nigeria as criminal gangs target schools that are believed to be at risk. However, the authorities in Kaduna are against ransom payments. El-Rufai previously said his government has a policy against negotiating with kidnappers.

Samantha Tapfumaneyi of CNN in London contributed to this report.