Hundreds of boys that were kidnapped from their boarding school by Boko Haram last week, have now been released according to local authorities in north-western Nigeria.
344 schoolboys have been released unharmed according to a spokesperson for the governor of Katsina State, where this incident took place. The boys are being taken to Katsina City, accompanied by an armed escort, to be reunited with their families.However, there are reports that some of the boys are still being held captive by, islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
Boko Haram had claimed the attack on the school, and released a video a few hours before the boys’ release, apparently, showing some of the boys still in the forced custody of the group. Government spokesperson, Abdul Labaran, said that the video is authentic but the accompanying message by Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau is fake and delivered by an impersonator.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari said in a televised interview that the government has “recovered most of the boys” but “it’s not all of them”. Presently, it is unclear how exactly the release of the kidnapped boys came about.
As per witness reports, armed men stormed into the school, in Kankara Town, on Friday the 11th of December. Many students ran and jumped the fence after hearing gunshots go off, but other students had already been captured by the militants by then. Some of the students that were able to escape the school were tracked down by the militants who tricked them into believing they were security personnel here to help them, according to accounts from students that managed to evade the armed kidnappers. They boys were then grouped together and marched into a nearby forest by the armed attackers.
Boko Haram has a history of school kidnappings, and they are known to force captives to become militants as well. Previously, Boko Haram was responsible for the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok, in 2014. Some of the girls escaped or were released after negotiations with the government, but a 112 girls are still believed to be in captivity.
In the local Hausa dialect Boko Haram means ‘western education is forbidden’, the group also refers to itself as ‘Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad’, meaning ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. This explains why the militant group has attacked schools in the past decade.
Boko Haram is primarily based in north-eastern Nigeria, which is why the government has stated that despite Boko Haram taking responsibility for the kidnapping it was actually local gangs in north-western Nigeria, connected to the militant group, that carried out the kidnapping.
Armed attacks and kidnappings are common in north-western Nigeria and are often blamed on bandits, a loose term for gangs operating in the area.
Amnesty International says more than 1,100 people were killed by bandits in the first six months of this year, with the government failing to bring the attackers to justice.