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Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are freed

Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years.

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Students who were abducted by gunmen are seen after their release (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Students who were abducted by gunmen are seen after their release (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Students who were abducted by gunmen are seen after their release (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Hundreds of Nigerian girls abducted last week from a boarding school have been released, officials said.

Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle announced that 279 girls have been freed.

Gunmen abducted the girls from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe in the north-western state on Friday, in the latest in a series of mass kidnappings of students in the West African nation.

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Some of the students who were abducted by gunmen (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Some of the students who were abducted by gunmen (Sunday Alamba/AP)

AP/PA Images

Some of the students who were abducted by gunmen (Sunday Alamba/AP)

An Associated Press reporter saw hundreds of girls dressed in light blue hijabs and barefoot sitting at the state Government House office in Gusau.

After the meeting, the girls were escorted outside by officials and taken away in vans. They appeared calm and ranged in ages from 10 upwards.

“I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe,” Mr Matawalle said in a post on Twitter.

At the time of the attack, one resident told AP that the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from responding to the mass abduction at the school.

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The girls wait for a medical check-up (Sunday Alamba/AP)

The girls wait for a medical check-up (Sunday Alamba/AP)

AP/PA Images

The girls wait for a medical check-up (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Police and the military had since been carrying out joint operations to rescue the girls, whose abduction caused international outrage.

Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years.

On Saturday, 24 students, six staff and eight relatives were released after being abducted on February 17 from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state. In December, more than 300 boys from a secondary school in Kankara, in north-western Nigeria, were taken and later released. The government has said no ransom was paid for the students’ release.

The most notorious kidnapping was in April 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by jihadist rebels from Boko Haram from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than 100 of those girls are still missing. Boko Haram is opposed to western education and its fighters often target schools.

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Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle announced that 279 girls have been freed (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle announced that 279 girls have been freed (Sunday Alamba/AP)

AP/PA Images

Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle announced that 279 girls have been freed (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Other organised armed groups, locally called bandits, often abduct students for money. The government says large groups of armed men in Zamfara state are known to kidnap for money and to press for the release of their members held in jail.

Experts say if the kidnappings continue to go unpunished, they may continue.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said last week the government would not “succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in expectation of huge ransom payments”.

He called on state governments to review their policy of making payments, in money or vehicles, to bandits, saying such a policy has the potential to backfire.

PA


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