More than 300 schoolboys abducted last week by armed men in northwest Nigeria have been released, local authorities said Thursday.
Aminu Bello Masari, the Katsina State Governor, made the announcement on Nigerian state TV, NTA, from his office.
“At the moment 344 of the students have been released and handed over to the security operatives. I think we can say at least we have recovered most of the boys, if not all of them,” he said.
Arrangements are being made to transport them to Katsina, he added.
“The news reaching about an hour ago indicates that all of them have been recovered and they are on their way from the forest area to Katsina. By tomorrow we will get them medically examined and then arrangements will be on the way to reunite them with their families,” he said.
More than 800 students were at the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, when it was attacked last week by armed men. Hundreds escaped and it was believed there were more than 330 remaining in captivity.
He said the government will be “working with the police and also to engage private security firms to safeguard schools” to prevent the “ugly experience of the last six days”.
The news of the release of the schoolboys comes shortly after a video was released by the jihadist rebels of Boko Haram that purportedly shows the abducted boys. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction.
In the more than six-minute video seen on Thursday by Associated Press journalists, the apparent captors told one boy to repeat their demands that the government calls off its search for them by troops and aircraft.
The video circulated widely on WhatsApp and first appeared on a Nigerian news site, HumAngle, that often reports on Boko Haram.
The government had said it was negotiating with the attackers.
For more than 10 years, Boko Haram has engaged in a bloody campaign to introduce strict Islamic rule in Nigeria’s north. Thousands have been killed and more than 1 million have been displaced by the violence.
Boko Haram has been mainly active in northeast Nigeria, but with the abductions from the school in Katsina State, there is worry the insurgency is expanding to the northwest.
Friday’s abduction is a chilling reminder of Boko Haram’s attacks on schools. In February 2014, 59 boys were killed when the jihadists attacked the Federal Government College Buni Yadi in Yobe State.
In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from a government boarding school in Chibok in northeastern Borno State. About 100 of those girls are still missing.
In 2018, Boko Haram Islamic extremists brought back nearly all of the 110 girls they had kidnapped from a boarding school in Dapchi and warned: “Don’t ever put your daughters in school again”.
Following Friday’s abduction, Katsina State shut down all its boarding schools to prevent other abductions. The nearby states of Zamfara, Jigiwa and Kano also have closed schools as a precaution.
Armed bandits have killed more than 1,100 people since the beginning of the year in Nigeria’s northwest, according to Amnesty International.