All 279 girls kidnapped from their boarding school in northern Nigeria have been released and are on government premises, the local governor told reporters on March 2.
Nigeria has been rocked by four mass abductions of students in less than three months, sparking widespread anger against the government and memories of the 2014 kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok, in the country’s east, that shocked the world.
“I am happy to announce that the girls are free,” said Zamfara state governor Dr Bello Matawalle. “They have just arrived in the government house and are in good health.”
Authorities initially said 317 girls were abducted in the raid by hundreds of gunmen on the Government Girls Secondary School in remote Jangebe village on February 26.
But Matawalle said the “total number of female students abducted” was 279.
Government officials had been in talks with the kidnappers, known locally as bandits.
A source said “repentant bandits” had been contacted to reach out to their former comrades as part of efforts to free the students.
Heavily armed criminal gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging.
The Nigerian military was deployed to the area in 2016 and a peace deal with bandits was signed in 2019 but attacks have continued.
In December, more than 300 boys were kidnapped from a school in Kankara, in President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, while he was visiting the region.
The boys were later released but the incident triggered outrage and memories of the kidnappings of 276 schoolgirls by jihadists in Chibok.
Many of those girls are still missing.
The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings.
Authorities have denied paying any ransom to secure the recent releases.