Katsina state governor says security forces have rescued about 350 schoolchildren abducted by Islamist gunmen in northern Nigeria and taken to a vast forest.
The abduction last Friday night The militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the unconfirmed audio recording.
Gunmen raid motorbikes and abducted boys at a government science secondary school in the town of Kangaroo in Katsina state.
Governor Aminu Bello Mazari said in a televised interview with the state channel NTA that 344 boys held captive in the Rugu forest in the neighboring state of Samfara had been released.
“We rescued most of the boys. This is not all,” he said.
During the rescue operation, security forces cordoned off the area where the boys were being held and instructed them not to open fire.
We have already established indirect contact to ensure the release of children without injury, ”Mazari said.
“We thank God they accepted our advice and did not take a single shot.”
The boys were returning to Katsina State. Mazari added that he will conduct a medical examination and reunite with his family tomorrow.
The kidnapping gripped and evoked memories of a people already outraged by widespread insecurity. Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls in 2014 In the northeastern town of Chibok.
The news of the release came hours after a video showing Boko Haram militants with some boys began circulating online.
In the video, which features the symbol of Boko Haram, a group of boys on a stick pleads, “Help us, help us.”
Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the footage or who released it.
The father of one of the missing boys said his son Shamsu Ibrahim, who gave only the first part of the name Umar, was one of the boys who was heard talking in the video.
“Send back all the troops who came here to help us. They can do nothing to help us,” the boy says.
Boko Haram has a history of turning hostages into jihadi fighters. If its claims are true, its involvement in northwestern Nigeria marks a geographical development in its operations.
Protesters marched in the northwestern city of Katsina under the banner #BringBackOurBoys as they put pressure on the government to improve security.
“North Nigeria has been left at the mercy of brutal insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and hardened criminals,” said Balarabe Rufin of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), which focuses on the welfare of northern Nigerians. .
Armed gangs looting and abducting ransom are attacking communities in the northwest, making it difficult for locals to cultivate or travel or tap rich mineral resources in some states, such as Gold.
The rights group Amnesty International reports that more than 1,100 people have been killed by criminal gangs operating in the Northwest in the first half of 2020 alone.
In the Northeast, Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State province of West Africa have been in revolt for a decade. About 20 million people were displaced and more than 30,000 were killed. They want to create states based on a radical interpretation of Sharia law.
Nigerian President Mohammed Buhari, from Katsina, reiterated that Boko Haram had been technically defeated.
Buhari, a former military ruler, was elected in 2015 after vowing to quell the uprising.
Under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram gained power and controlled the size of Belgium.