Nearly a week after more than 300 school boys were kidnapped from a school in northwestern Nigeria, they have been suddenly released. They were initially feared to have been taken by the Daesh-aligned group Boko Haram, but the local governor told reporters the kidnappers were simply “bandits.”
On Tuesday, the jihadist group claimed to be behind the kidnapping, which took place during an armed nighttime raid in Kankara. In a video they released, a boy who said he was from Kankara says: “We have been caught by a gang of Abu Shekau,” he said, referring to the head of Boko Haram. “Some of us were killed.”
“You have to send them the money,” he added, according to the New York Times, as boys around him cried out “help us.”
Aminu Bello Masari, the governor of Katsina State, announced on television on Thursday evening that 344 of the boys had been recovered in neighboring Zamfara State. According to the New York Times, he told reporters the state had negotiated the boys’ freedom from “bandits,” not Boko Haram.
This was far from Boko Haram’s first mass kidnapping: in 2014, the Muslim fundamentalist group abducted 276 girls in Chibok in Borno state, most of whom were Christian. The shocking seizure prompted an international campaign to “free our girls.” At present, 112 of the girls are missing, with at least 13 presumed dead.
Buhari, who was elected in 2015 on the promise of effectively dealing with Boko Haram, released a statement late Thursday urging patience as his administration tries to resolve security disruptions around the country. He reiterated his promise to work for the release of others kidnapped by Boko Haram, according to the Times.