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Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys released after six-day kidnap ordeal

  • Published at 09:26 am December 18th, 2020
File photo: Released students gather at the Government House with other students from the Government Science Secondary school, Nigeria on December 18, 2020 AFP

The mass assault last Friday by armed men on a rural school in Kankara was initially blamed on criminal gangs who have terrorized the region for years

Exhausted and dishevelled, several hundred Nigerian schoolboys seized in a mass abduction claimed by Boko Haram experienced their first full day of freedom on Friday after a nearly week-long ordeal.

But relief at their survival mingled with concern that many others could still be captive, and the circumstances of their release remained unclear.

Looking dirty, worn-out and distraught, and most of them without shoes, the boys were brought to the governor's office in Katsina, the capital of Katsina state in north-western Nigeria, after being released late Thursday.

One boy broke down in tears as he was being led into the hall for the reception by state governor Bello Masari. An official took a handkerchief and wiped the tears.

"I am happy, very happy that I will see my father, mother and junior brothers," said another, 14-year-old Ibrahim Sani, smiling but looking tired.

Hajia Bilikis, a mother who been waiting anxiously with other parents, spoke of her exultation when she caught sight of her boy, Abdullahi Abdu-Rasaq, 15.

"I'm so excited... I have to cry, the cry of joy when I saw him," she told AFP.

Governor Masari said the youngsters had been traumatised by what they had been through.

"You suffered physically, mentally and psychologically, but let me assure you that we suffered more and your parents suffered more."

Jihadists' claim

The mass assault last Friday by armed men on a rural school in Kankara was initially blamed on criminal gangs who have terrorised the region for years.

But on Tuesday Boko Haram, the brutal jihadist group behind the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, claimed responsibility.

Local officials announced late Thursday that the boys had been released and would spend the night in the protection of security agents. 

A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had been left in the forest after negotiations between the authorities and the abductors, but gave no further details.

"This is a huge relief to the entire country & international community," President Muhammadu Buhari said on Twitter.

It remained unclear, however, if all the abducted schoolboys had been released, amid ongoing uncertainty over the number taken in the first place.

In an interview with state channel NTA late Thursday, Masari said: "I think we have recovered most of the boys, it's not all of them."

In a video released by Boko Haram Thursday, a distressed teenager said he was among 520 students kidnapped.