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Families wait to be reunited with freed Nigerian schoolboys

GlobalDec 18, 2020 09:00
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* More than 300 boys abducted from a school on Dec. 11
* Katsina governor says 344 boys were freed
* Islamist militants had claimed responsibility in audiotape

By Ismail Abba
KATSINA, Nigeria, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Nearly 350 kidnapped
Nigerian schoolboys are expected to be reunited with their
families on Friday after security forces rescued them from a
vast forest in the north of the country.
Last Friday night, gunmen raided the Government Science
Secondary School in Kankara town, Katsina state, on motorbikes
and marched the boys into the sprawling Rugu forest, one of the
country's largest woodland areas.
It was one of the biggest mass abductions in recent years.
Katsina Governor Aminu Bello Masari said late on Thursday
that 344 boys had been freed from the forest in neighbouring
Zamfara state. There was still some uncertainty as to whether
all of those abducted had been rescued. NL1N2IX1FD
Photographs released by Katsina state government showed
smiling boys looking out from the back of trucks.
"I couldn't believe what I heard until neighbours came to
inform me that it's true," Hafsat Funtua, mother of 16-year-old
Hamza Naziru, said in a phone interview.
Describing the moment she heard the news, she said she ran
out of her house with joy "not knowing where to go" before
returning home to pray.
Another parent, Husseini Ahmed, whose 14-year-old Mohammed
Husseini was also among those abducted, expressed happiness and
relief that he would soon be reunited with his son.
"We are happy and anxiously expecting their return," he
said.
A Katsina state government spokesman on Friday said the boys
would undergo a medical examination before being reunited with
their parents. He also said they would meet President Muhammadu
Buhari on Friday.
Hours before the rescue of the boys was announced, a video
started circulating online purportedly showing Islamist
militants from Boko Haram with some of the boys. Reuters was
unable to immediately verify the authenticity of the footage,
the boys, or who released it.
In an interview with state TV channel NTA, in which he
announced the release of the captives, Masari said "most" of the
boys had been rescued. But an aide told Reuters early on Friday said they were all
free. "No student is still with the abductors," Katsina state
government spokesman Abdu Labaran said via telephone.
The president posted a tweet on Friday of a video in which
he said he had spoken to the governor and the military to
congratulate them.
"The military is well trained. I am very impressed with the
governor," said Buhari.
Authorities released few details about the rescue operation.
Katsina state's governor said security forces had cordoned
off the area around the boys, and that not a single shot was
fired.
Labaran, his spokesman, said questions about the captors and
whether they had been arrested should be directed to the
military.
Armed forces spokesman John Enenche and army spokesman Sagir
Musa did not immediately respond to text messages and phone
calls seeking comment on the military operation.

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FACTBOX-What is Boko Haram? violence and insecurity affecting Nigeria
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Families wait to be reunited with freed Nigerian schoolboys
 

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