344 abducted Nigerian schoolboys freed

MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA (AP) — Over 300 boarding school students abducted last week by armed men in northwest Nigeria have been released, a government official said on Thursday.

On Nigerian state TV, NTA, Katsina State Governer Aminu Bello Masari said the 344 boys were turned over to security officials and brought to the state capital to get physical examinations before reuniting with their families.

“We have recovered most of the boys, if not all of them,” Masari said. He did not disclose if the government paid any ransom.

President Muhammadu Buhari noted his administration’s successful efforts to secure the release of previously abducted students. He added that the government “is acutely aware of its responsibility to protect the life and property of the Nigerians”.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for last Friday’s abduction of the students from the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in the Katsina State village of Kankara. More than 800 students were in attendance at the time of the attack.

News of the students’ release came shortly after Boko Haram released a six-minute video on Thursday that purportedly showed the abducted boys. One boy conveyed their demands for the government to call off its search.

Usama Aminu, a 17-year-old escaped victim. PHOTO: AP

The video circulated widely on WhatsApp and first appeared on a Nigerian news site, HumAngle.

Usama Aminu, a 17-year-old escaped victim, told AP his captors wore military uniforms and gun-toting teenagers, some younger than him, aided the attackers.

He said the kidnapped boys tried to help each other as bandits flogged them from behind to get them to move faster and forced them to lie down under large trees when helicopters were heard above.

Aminu escaped at night. He was able to return home after being found by a resident in a mosque who gave him a change of clothes and money.

Government officials said earlier this week that police, the air force and the army tracked the kidnappers to a hideout in the Zango/Paula forest.

Katsina, Zamfara, Jigiwa and Kano states have closed their boarding schools to prevent other abductions.

Masari said the government will work with the police to increase private security at the Kankara school “to make sure that we don’t experience what we have experienced in the last six days”.

In 2018, Boko Haram extremists brought back nearly all of the 110 girls they had kidnapped from a boarding school in Dapchi and warned, “Don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”