KATSINA, Nigeria (AP) – More than 300 Nigerian schoolchildren, released after being abducted last week in an attack on their school, have arrived in the state capital Katsina to celebrate their release.
The boys were abducted on the night of December 11 from the government science high school for boys in Kankara village in Katsina state in northwestern Nigeria.
The students arrived in Katsina, the state capital, on Friday and met with Katsina Governor Aminu Bello Masari.
Blurred and amazed by their attempt, the boys huddled in chairs in a conference room, most still in school uniforms, some wrapped in gray blankets. The oldest of the boys sat in the front row and was greeted by officials.
Masari announced his release late Thursday, saying 344 boarding students had been handed over to security officials. Masari told the Associated Press that no ransom had been paid to secure the boys’ freedom.
“I think we can say … I recovered most, if not all, of the boys,” he said.
The high school boys will undergo physical examinations in the state capital before reuniting with their families, the governor said.
Nigeria’s jihadist rebels, Boko Haram, have claimed responsibility for the abduction. Leader Abubakar Shekau said they attacked the school because they believe Western education is non-Islamic.
More than 800 students were present at the time of the attack. Hundreds escaped, but more than 330 were believed to have been taken.
The government said it was negotiating with the school’s attackers, originally described as bandits. Experts say the attack was probably carried out by local gangs, which have staged increasingly deadly attacks in northwestern Nigeria this year, working with Boko Haram. Armed bandits, also known for ransom kidnappings, have killed more than 1,100 people in the region since the beginning of the year, according to Amnesty International.
Friday’s abduction was a worrying reminder of Boko Haram’s previous attacks on schools. In February 2014, 59 boys were killed when jihadists attacked Buni Yadi Federal Government College in Yobe State.
In April 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 270 schoolgirls from a government boarding school in Chibok, northeastern Borno State. About 100 of these girls are still missing.
In 2018, Boko Haram Islamic extremists brought back almost all 110 girls they abducted from a boarding school in Dapchi and warned: “Never put your daughters back in school.”
While President Muhammadu Buhari cited the release of the Dapchi schools as a success during a statement to the public late Thursday, he reiterated that much remains to be done.
Amid a West African nation protest over insecurity in the north, Buhari noted his administration’s successful efforts to secure the release of previously abducted students. He added that the government “is extremely aware of its responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians.”
“We have a lot of work to do, especially now that we have reopened the borders,” Buhari said, noting that the northwestern region of Nigeria “has a problem” that the administration is determined to deal with. “
Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal