rfi– Nigerian authorities have announced the release of 344 schoolboys who had been abducted in an attack in northern Nigeria claimed by Boko Haram, although it is unclear if any more boys are still being held captive.
Gunmen raided the rural secondary school in Kankara, Katsina state and abducted the boys last Friday in what was the biggest incident of the kind in the region in recent years.
The assault was initially blamed on bandits, who have terrorised the region for years.
But on Tuesday Boko Haram, the jihadist group behind the abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, claimed responsibility for the raid.
- Boko Haram claims abduction of hundreds of schoolboys in north-west Nigeria
After a six-day ordeal, local officials said the boys had been released.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari said in a televised interview with state channel NTA that a total of 344 boys held in the Rugu Forest in neighboring Zamfara state had been freed.
“We have recovered most of the boys. It’s not all of them,” he said.
“This is a huge relief to the entire country & international community,” President Muhammadu Buhari said on Twitter.
In the rescue operation, security forces had cordoned off the area where the boys were being held and had been given instructions not to fire a fire a single shot.
“We had already established indirect contact to try to make sure that we secure the release of the children unharmed,” Masari said. “We thank God that they took our advice and not a single shot was fired.”
The boys were on their way back to Katsina state and would be medically examined and reunited with their families on Friday, Masari said.
The abduction has gripped Nigeria where people are already incensed by widespread insecurity, and has brought back memories of Boko Haram’s 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok.
#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 president 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.