LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Students, teachers and relatives abducted two weeks ago from a school in northern Nigeria have been freed.
The students, teachers and family members were abducted Feb. 17 by gunmen from the Government Science College Kagara.
Niger State Gov. Abubakar Sani Bello said he received 24 students, six staff and eight relatives on Saturday after they were released early in the morning.
This number released differed from the 42 people that the governor had originally said were kidnapped by the attackers, indicating some may still be missing. The discrepancy was not explained.
One of the students has been hospitalized for excessive exhaustion, he said, adding that the released will be medically checked and monitored for a few days before being reunited with family.
Sani Bello said that joint efforts of security, traditional leaders and stakeholders helped secure the release.
Their release was announced a day after police said gunmen had abducted 317 girls from a boarding school elsewhere in northern Nigeria, in Zamfara state. One resident said the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from interfering with the mass abduction.
Several large groups of armed men operate in Zamfara state, described by the government as bandits, and are known to kidnap for money and to push for the release of their members from jail.
Masauda Umar, 20, managed to escape from the school when the men arrived Friday.
She told The Associated Press the bandits came to their sleeping quarters and after knocking on the main door, they hit the people who answered it and made everyone gather.
“I was coming out from the door and I met somebody but ran back and hid under my bed,” she said. “I’m scared of going back to school because of what happened really got me scared but I will go back if the government tackles insecurity.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Friday the government’s primary objective is to get all the school hostages returned safe, alive and unharmed.
“We will not succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in the expectation of huge ransom payments,” he said. “Let bandits, kidnappers and terrorists not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government.”
Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings over the years, notably the mass abduction in April 2014 by jihadist group Boko Haram of 276 girls from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than a hundred of the girls are still missing.
In December, 344 students were abducted from the Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State. They were eventually released.