Kidnapped Nigerian schoolboys rescued

Captors fed children bits of bread and cassava

Eleanor Sly
Friday 18 December 2020 13:10 GMT
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Many of the schoolboys returned barefoot
Many of the schoolboys returned barefoot (EPA)

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Around 350 schoolboys who were kidnapped from a school in northwest Nigeria have returned home.

Television broadcast showed the boys arriving in the city of Katsina on buses. Many of them were barefoot, dressed in dirty clothes and clutching blankets, but in spite of this they looked well.

One of them spoke to Channels TV, saying that the captors had fed them bits of bread and cassava. “It was cold” he said and added that he was “really happy” to be back.

They were then escorted by armed police and soldiers to meet the governor and undergo medical checks, before being reunited with their parents.

Hafsat Funtua, mother of 16-year-old schoolboy Hamza Naziru, said: "I couldn't believe what I heard until neighbours came to inform me that it's true."

When she heard the news she apparently rushed out of the house with joy, "not knowing where to go." She then returned home to pray.

A man who said he was the father of two of the boys told the Arise television station: "We are very grateful. We are very grateful. We are very grateful,"

The boys were kidnapped a week ago by gunmen who arrived on motorbikes and raided the Government Science Secondary School, a boarding school in the town of Kankara. They rounded up the boys and marched them into the Rugu forest.

Many of the boys were rescued by authorities on Thursday, although it is not known exactly how many and whether some of them could still be missing.

A video was put online just before the boys were rescued, which supposedly shows them with Boko Haram militants. However the authenticity of the footage has not yet been verified.

This latest kidnapping put further pressure on the Nigerian government to deal with militants in the north of the African country.

President Muhammadu Buhari hails from Katsina state and has previously claimed that Boko Haram has been "technically defeated".

Mr Buhari congratulated both the army and the state's governor in a video clip posted on his Twitter account.

The abduction brought back painful memories of the 2014 Boko Haram kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria.  

Only around half of the girls who were initially kidnapped six year ago have been found or released. Those still missing were married off to fighters or have been assumed dead.

If Boko Haram are confirmed as responsible for the kidnapping, it would mark an expansion of the militant group’s activities to other parts of Nigeria. 

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