GUSAU, Nigeria (AP) – Hundreds of Nigerian schoolchildren abducted from a boarding school in the northwestern state of Amfara were released last week, the state governor said on Tuesday.
Amfara state governor Bello Matavale said 279 girls had been released. Last week, the government announced that 317 people had been abducted.
The men were abducted on Friday in a raid on a government student ‘s primary school in West Africa.
An Associated Press reporter saw hundreds of girls in light blue hijabs sitting barefoot in the office of the Gusau State Government House.
After the meeting, the officials escorted the girls out to be taken away in vans. They appeared calm, fluctuating over the age of 10.
Matavale said they would be taken for a medical before joining the family.
“Alhamdulillah!” (Praise God!) It makes my heart glad to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jan Angebe. This follows the escalation of several obstacles to our efforts. “I urge all good-natured Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are safe now,” Matavale said in a Twitter post early Tuesday.
At the time of the attack, a resident told the Associated Press that gunmen had attacked a checkpoint at a nearby military camp, preventing soldiers from responding to a mass kidnapping at a school.
One of the girls told the AP the night of their abduction.
“We were asleep at night when we suddenly heard gunshots. They fired endlessly. “We got out of bed, people said we had to run away, they were thieves,” he said. “Everyone ran away, the two of us stayed in the room.”
He said the attackers kept weapons on the girls’ heads.
“I was really afraid of being shot,” he said, adding that they were asking for directions from the district և director. “We said we did not know who he was. “They said the principal was our father. They would teach us a lesson.”
After that, the police and the military carried out joint operations to rescue the girls, whose abduction caused international outrage.
President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy” over the release of the girls.
“I join the families of the people of Amfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized students,” she said in a statement. “Being held captive is a painful experience not only for the victims but also for their families and for all of us.”
The president called for greater vigilance to prevent such robbers from carrying out such attacks.
He urged the police, the military, to pursue the kidnappers, and warned that the policy of paying the robbers would pay off.
“The ransom payments will continue to make the kidnapping prosper,” he said.
The timing of the release of the female students was not immediately clear.
There have been several similar attacks and kidnappings in Nigeria in recent years. On Saturday, 24 students and six staff members were released after being abducted from a government science college in Kagara, Nigeria. In December, more than 300 schoolchildren were evacuated from Kankara High School in northwestern Nigeria and later released. The government has stated that no ransom has been paid for the students’ release.
The most notorious kidnapping was in April 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram jihadist rebels from Chibok Secondary School in Borno State. More than 100 of these girls are still missing. Boko Haram is opposed to Western education; its fighters often target schools.
Other organized gangs, locally called bandits, often kidnap students for money. The government says large groups of gunmen in the state of Amfara are known to kidnap for money and press for the release of their members in prison.
Experts say that if the kidnappings go unpunished, they could continue.
Contributed by AP writers Sam Olukoyan in Lagos, Nigeria և Carly Petesh in Dakar, Senegal.