KATSINA, NIGERIA – Dozens of abducted schoolboys arrived home on Friday, a day after security forces rescued them in northwestern Nigeria.
The television images showed the boys, many of them wearing light green uniforms and gathering blankets, arriving on buses, looking tired, but otherwise well.
The gunmen attacked the boys’ high school in Kankara City, Katsina State, on Friday last week and marched about 350 of them into the vast Rugu Forest. It was not clear if they were all recovered in the rescue operation.
None of the boys spoke as they got off the bus in a single file, flanked by soldiers, in a government building. A group of parents were waiting to reunite with them in another part of the city.
“I couldn’t believe what I heard until the neighbors came to tell me it was true,” Hafsat Funtua, Hamza Naziru’s 16-year-old mother, said in a telephone interview.
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Describing the moment he heard the news, he said he ran away from home happily “not knowing where to go” before returning home to pray.
Another parent, Husseini Ahmed, whose 14-year-old Mohammed Husseini was also among those abducted, expressed his happiness and relief that he would soon be reunited with his son.
“We are happy and looking forward to their return,” he said.
A few hours before the boys’ rescue was announced, a video showing Islamist Boko Haram militants with some of the boys began circulating online. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the footage or who released it.
The mass abduction has put pressure on the government to deal with militants in the north of the country, especially President Muhammadu Buhari, who comes from Katsina and has repeatedly said Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”.