BFF-26, 27 Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys released after six-day kidnap ordeal

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Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys released after six-day kidnap ordeal

KATSINA, Nigeria, Dec 18, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Exhausted and
dishevelled, several hundred Nigerian schoolboys seized in a mass
abduction claimed by Boko Haram experienced their first full day of
freedom on Friday after a nearly week-long ordeal.

But relief at their survival mingled with concern that many others
could still be captive, and the circumstances of their release
remained unclear.

Looking dirty, worn-out and distraught, and most of them without
shoes, the boys were brought to the governor’s office in Katsina, the
capital of Katsina state in northwestern Nigeria, after being released
late Thursday.

One boy broke down in tears as he was being led into the hall for
the reception by state governor Bello Masari. An official took a
handkerchief and wiped the tears.

“I am happy, very happy that I will see my father, mother and
junior brothers,” said another, 14-year-old Ibrahim Sani, smiling but
looking tired.

Hajia Bilikis, a mother who has been waiting anxiously with other
parents, spoke of her exultation when she caught sight of her boy,
Abdullahi Abdu-Rasaq, 15.

“I’m so excited… I have to cry, the cry of joy when I saw him,”
she told AFP.

Governor Masari said the youngsters had been traumatised by what
they had been through.

“You suffered physically, mentally and psychologically, but let me
assure you that we suffered more and your parents suffered more.”

The boys were later given new clothes before they were received
also in the governor’s office by President Muhammadu Buhari, who spoke
in Hausa, a language widely used in northern Nigeria.

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– Jihadists’ claim –

The mass assault last Friday by armed men on a rural school in
Kankara was initially blamed on criminal gangs who have terrorised the
region for years.

But on Tuesday Boko Haram, the brutal jihadist group behind the
abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, claimed
responsibility.

Local officials announced late Thursday that the boys had been
released and would spend the night in the protection of security
agents.

A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they
had been left in the forest after negotiations between the authorities
and the abductors, but gave no further details.

“This is a huge relief to the entire country & international
community,” Buhari said on Twitter.

It remained unclear, however, if all the abducted schoolboys had
been released, amid ongoing uncertainty over the number taken in the
first place.

In an interview with state channel NTA late Thursday, Masari said:
“I think we have recovered most of the boys, it’s not all of them.”

In a video released by Boko Haram Thursday, a distressed teenager
said he was among 520 students kidnapped.

– ‘Bandits and terrorists’ –

Sources had previously told AFP that the raid was carried out by a
well-known criminal in the region, Awwalun Daudawa, in collaboration
with Idi Minorti and Dankarami, two other crime chiefs with strong
local followings, acting on behalf of Boko Haram.

Experts recently warned that jihadists — operating in the
northeast of the country, hundreds of kilometres (miles) from where
Friday’s attack occurred — were attempting to forge an alliance with
criminal gangs in the northwest.

Buhari’s official spokesman Garba Shehu said on Twitter “the
northwest now presents a challenge which his administration is
determined to deal with.”

“It is unfortunate that the bandits and terrorists continue to get
weapons even under the circumstances of the border closure. We are
going to dare them.”

Many parents of the missing students in Kankara said they had long
feared an attack, given escalating violence in the region.

“Our children told us armed men would come up to the school fence
but they never breached the fence… until last Friday,” Hauwa’u Isah,
mother of an abducted child said.

Around 8,000 people have been killed in the northwest since 2011,
according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

#BringBackOurBoys started trending on social media earlier this
week, in reference to a similar hashtag after the Chibok kidnappings.

Small protests to push for the boys’ release took place in Katsina
on Thursday as Buhari was visiting the state.

“Why we are here today is because we want to tell the federal
government that what they are doing is not enough,” protester Jamilu
Aliyu Turanci said. “Mr President has failed us.”

Bilikis, the mother, vowed on Friday never to let her lad live in a
boarding school again.

“Kankara is not safe. There have been a lot of kidnappings before,”
she said.

It was however not immediately clear if the boys would be handed
over to their waiting parents later on Friday.

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