UPDATED: 9:23 a.m. ET, March 2, 2021 —
On Tuesday Zamfara Gov. Bello Matawalle confirmed 279 girls were released after they were abducted from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe last week.
A total of 317 girls were initially reported missing. It is unclear whether the number was made in error or if there are still girls who have yet to be rescued.
The group of girls appeared with Matawalle and will be reunited with their families after undergoing medical examinations. The parents of the children watched and searched vigilantly over the last week after their daughters were taken during a Friday morning raid when armed gunmen ascended upon the school.
In an interview with the Associated Press, one of the kidnapping victims recounted her fear during the terrifying experience.
“We were sleeping at night when suddenly we started hearing gunshots. They were shooting endlessly. We got out of our beds and people said we should run, that they are thieves,” she said.
The gunmen were able to locate the girl and some of her classmates and held guns to their heads. “I was really afraid of being shot,” she said.
The abduction is the latest in a slew of mass kidnappings in the West African nation over the last seven years.
Hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls are missing on Friday after a group of gunmen invaded a school, abducting at least 300 students.
According to the Associated Press, the group invaded the Government Secondary Jangebe School in Zamfara located in northern Nigeria early Friday morning. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
A resident who said he witnessed the attack told the AP that the gunmen ascended upon the school while raiding a nearby military camp and checkpoint, blocking security from protecting the children while the abduction took place.
Conflicting reports say that some of the gunmen even dressed up as security, forcing the students into cars, while others were ushered away on foot.
A teacher told the BBC that 421 students attend the school, but only 55 were accounted for.
“They broke the school gate and shot at the security man. Then they moved into the hostels and woke up the girls, telling them it was time for prayers. After gathering all of them, the girls were crying and they took them away to the forest. They were also shooting in the air as they were marching to the forest,” a witness told the BBC.
Parents of the children have been left to pray for a miracle that their daughters will return to safety. One parent claims that two of his daughters, ages 10 and 13, were taken during the raid. Some of the parents have ventured into the outskirts to look for their daughters.
“We are angered and saddened and by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Nigeria representative. “This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through.”
Friday’s kidnapping occurred days after unidentified attackers murdered a student while attempting to kidnap a group of 42 people, including students and teachers from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger. The group remains in captivity.
Officials have warned of a rise of activity between armed groups and a breakdown in security across the state.
The incident came almost seven years after the 2014 disappearance of Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram, and just two months after hundreds of Nigerian boys were freed following days in captivity.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.