The over 300 abducted Kandara Secondary Schoolboys in Katsina state, have been freed by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram militants kidnapped the schoolboys from the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in northwestern Katsina state last Friday.
Around 800 students had been present at the school when it was attacked by armed men on December 11, with hundreds held captive by Abu Shekau’s jihadists.
Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari announced on Thursday that 344 boarding school students have now been turned over to security officials.
The boys will be brought to the capital of Katsina, where they will get physical examinations before being reunited with their families.
‘At the moment, 344 of the students have been released and handed over to the security operatives. I think we can say at least we have recovered most of the boys, if not all of them,’ he said.
The Government will be ‘working with the police and also to engage private security firms to safeguard schools’ and prevent the ‘ugly experience of the last six days,’ Masari added.
President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed their release, calling it ‘a big relief to their families, the entire country and to the international community.’
Buhari noted his administration’s successful efforts to secure the release of previously abducted students and added that the leadership ‘is acutely aware of its responsibility to protect the life and property of the Nigerians.’
‘We have a lot of work to do, especially now that we have reopened the borders,’ Buhari said, noting that the Northwest region ‘presents a problem’ that the administration ‘is determined to deal with.’
News of the release came hours after Boko Haram released footage of dozens of the abducted schoolboys. The militant group had already claimed responsibility for the incident.
In the clips, a distraught teenager, surrounded by dozens of younger boys, speaks in English and Hausa saying: ‘We have been caught by the gang of Abu Shekau.’
His voice starts to falter as he says: ‘Please, please, we need your assistance,’ while the other children shout out to the camera before the recording ends.
The video was released with a recording made by the group’s elusive leader Shekau.
‘I earlier released an audio confirming our people did Allah’s work, but people denied it,’ the voice said. ‘Here are my men, and your children have spoken.’
Shekau, who was behind the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, released an audio clip earlier this week explaining why the boys had been kidnapped.
He said Boko Haram sought ‘to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his holy Prophet.’
More than 100 gunmen wielding AK-47s and riding motorcycles stormed the rural school north of Kankara town, forcing pupils to flee and hide in the surrounding bush.
Some were able to escape, but many were captured, split into groups and taken away, residents said.
Parents of the missing students have been gathering daily at the school in Kankara for news of their sons.
The Government initially identified the attackers as bandits, who are known to use child soldiers. Earlier, Masari said 17 boys have been rescued since the initial abduction.
One of those who escaped, 17-year-old Usama Aminu said that they were forced to walk through the night by the militants before they let them sit down to rest.
Nigeria launched a rescue operation in which the police, air force and army tracked the kidnappers to their hideout in the Zango/Paula forest.