A representative of the Katsina State government, Abdul Labaran, has confirmed that 344 boys kidnapped from their school on December 11 have been returned to the State House in Katsina State, Nigeria. The boys were kidnapped from the Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) in the Kankara region of the state. According to reports, the boys were rescued by the Nigerian military on Thursday, almost a week after they were abducted.
Labaran also revealed that the boys were kidnapped by bandits who posed as Boko Haram, northern Nigeria’s jihadist terrorist organization. In response to the news of the boys’ release, President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted to commend the safe return of the students. The president also asked the citizens to be more patient in the face of the government’s perceived ineffectiveness in dealing with rising insecurity in the country.
“Their release brings immense relief to all Nigerians and the international community,” Buhari wrote on Twitter. “The administration is completely aware that we are responsible for safeguarding the citizens of Nigeria and their properties. I plead with Nigerians to be fair and patients with us as we take care of the security and economic challenges we are facing as a country.”
A video, bearing the logo of Boko Haram, had been released before the boys’ release on Thursday. One of the boys had been forced to state the demands of the kidnappers. The kidnappers want the government to stop “western education” in northern Nigeria by closing all schools. One of the kidnappers, posing as Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, also demanded that the military forces that we’re searching for the students should be told to retreat immediately, WSJ reports.
Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, told reporters on Thursday that the boys who appeared in the video are some of those kidnapped in Kankara. He also stated that the voice in the video does not belong to Shekau and that local bandits were only trying to pose as the notorious jihadist.
There have been a lot of high profile kidnappings in northern Nigeria, but last Friday’s kidnapping is the most daring of them all. Over 300 school children were abducted and a policeman guarding the school was shot. In 2014, Boko Haram orchestrated the abduction of almost 300 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State. At least 100 of those girls are still with the abductors after over six years.
In 2018, ISWAP, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, kidnapped over 100 girls from Dapchi, Yobe State. Leah Sharibu, one of the Dapchi girls, has still not been released but the other girls were released shortly after they were kidnapped. Leah Sharibu’s case has gained international recognition because of her bravery in refusing to denounce Christianity as her abductors had mandated.