Hundreds of Nigerian schoolchildren abducted by Boko Haram last week were released from government on Thursday, the local state governor announced.
Conformable The Wall Street Journal, Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari said in a televised interview on Thursday that 344 boys had been handed over to state authorities in a forest more than a hundred miles from the school where they were abducted last Friday.
Masari added that the boys will receive medical assistance immediately and are scheduled to meet with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday.
This comes two days after Boko Haram, a US-designated terrorist organization, officially claimed for kidnapping. The students were abducted at gunpoint at the government science high school in Katsina.
The Nigerian Daily reported receiving an audio message from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, saying his group had abducted schoolchildren because Western education violates Islamic principles, according to The Associated Press.
At least 600 boys managed to escape the assault on the school, the AP reported, while the attackers fought with the local police.
Earlier on Thursday, Boko Haram released a video showing one of the schoolchildren begging the Nigerian government to disband the army and vigilante groups, as well as schools, according to New York Times.
“We were caught by a gang in Abu Shekau,” he said. “Some of us were killed.”
“You have to send them the money,” he added.
A dozen younger boys crowded around him in the video and said, “Help us” in the room, the Times reported.
In a BBC interview recorded before the news of the release appeared, Masari said that the kidnappers contacted the father of one of the abducted boys and asked the government to pay a ransom.
“We have an idea where they are, but we are trying to make sure that there is no collateral damage, that the children are brought back safely,” he said during the interview. “So that’s why we tread carefully and slowly.”
The Times reported that Masari told a Deutsche Welle television reporter following the communication that the government had not paid any money to Boko Haram.
Nigeria has been subjected to increased international control over the management of terrorist groups and alleged abuses by Nigerian forces.
The United States last week designated Nigeria for the first time as a country with a particular concern for violations of religious freedom, one of the most serious designations by the State Department that opens the country to sanctions.