Hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped from a state boarding school in the north west Nigeria state of Zamfara last week have been released, a local official announced.
“It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity,” Zamfara state governor Bellow Matawalle tweeted. “Our daughters are safe now.”
The pupils were taken during a raid reportedly carried out by hundreds of gunmen on the Government Girls secondary school outside the remote village of Jangebe on 26th February, and were released on Tuesday.
Though authorities had first declared that 317 girls were abducted, Matawalle announced that the correct figure was 279.
The raid was the fourth since December, when 300 boys were abducted from Kankhara in the Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, in December last year. A week before, 40 children and adults were abducted from the town of Kagara, in the north-western Niger state.
Though it resembles Boko Haram’s abduction of the Chibok girls in 2014, it is believed that the raid was carried out by local bandits, rather than the terrorist group who operate principally in the north east of the country.
It is not clear how the girls’ release was secured. However, the Nigerian government has denied paying ransoms.
“This administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments,” President Buhari said in a statement following the kidnapping last week.
Buhari has come under increasing pressure in recent months to tackle the ongoing security crisis in the country.
Florence Ozor a prominent activist in the Bring Back Our Girls movement warned that the crisis is far from over.
“There is no rejoicing where it is clear that the dangers of kidnapping, abductions and killings by bandits are still lurking around,” she said. “It is no longer a question of if school children or adults will be abducted but a question of when.”