Nigerian official says over 300 abducted schoolboys freed
More than 300 schoolboys abducted last week by armed men in northwest Nigeria had been released, the Katsina State governor said.
On Thursday, in an announcement, Gov. Aminu Bello Masari said that the 344 boarding school students turned over to security officials that would get physical examinations before being reunited with their families.
President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed their release, calling it "a big relief to their families, the entire country and the international community," according to a statement from his office.
Amid an outcry against the West African country's government over insecurity in the north, Buhari noted his administration's successful efforts to secure the release of previously abducted students and added that the leadership "is acutely aware of its responsibility to protect the life and property of the Nigerians."
Boko Haram claimed responsibility for last Friday's abduction of the students from the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in the Katsina State village of Kankara.
The jihadist group attacked because they believe Western education is un-Islamic, factional leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video earlier this week. More than 800 students were in attendance at the time of the attack.
According to Amnesty Government, The attackers were originally described as bandits. The attack was likely carried out by local gangs, who have staged increasingly deadly assaults in northwest Nigeria this year, and could have been collaborating with Boko Haram. Armed bandits have killed more than 1,100 people since the beginning of the year in the region.
The group 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.
Parents of the missing students have been gathering daily at the school in Kankara. News of the students' release came shortly after the release of a video Thursday by Boko Haram that purportedly showed the abducted boys.
In the more than six-minute video seen by Associated Press journalists, the apparent captors told one boy to repeat their demands that the government call 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.
Usama Aminu, a 17-year-old kidnapped student who was eventually able to escape, told the AP that his captors wore military uniforms. He said that he also saw gun-toting teens, some younger than him, aiding the attackers.
He said that the kidnapped boys tried to help each other as bandits flogged them from behind to get them to move faster and forced them to lie down under large trees when they heard the helicopters above.
Aminu escaped at night. He was able to return home after being found by a resident in a mosque who gave him a change of clothes and money.
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.
Friday's abduction was a chilling reminder of Boko Haram's previous attacks on schools. In February 2014, 59 boys were killed when the jihadists attacked the Federal Government College Buni Yadi in Yobe state. (PTI)