Freed from Boko Haram: Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys huddle in a government building as they return from their ordeal with Islamist captors

 Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys who were abducted by Boko Haram huddled in a government building today after they were freed from their Islamist captors.

Dressed in dusty clothes and looking exhausted by their ordeal but otherwise well, the boys arrived on buses in the city of Katsina on Friday after authorities announced that 344 children had been turned over to security officials. 

The boys piled into chairs in a conference room, many of them barefoot and some of them wrapped in grey blankets, as they prepare to have medical checks before they are reunited with their families. 

One of them, with flecks of dried mud on his face, told local TV that the captors had fed them bread and cassava. 'It was cold,' he said. Asked how he had felt when the bus arrived in Katsina, he said: 'I was really happy,' and broke into a smile. 

The boys were abducted from a boarding school by gunmen on motorbikes last week before being marched into the vast Rugu forest.  

Regional premier Aminu Bello Masari said no ransom was paid to free them, adding that 'I think we can say .. we have recovered most of the boys, if not all of them'.  

Rescued: Exhausted schoolboys pile into chairs at a government building in Katsina today following their release from captivity a week after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram

Rescued: Exhausted schoolboys pile into chairs at a government building in Katsina today following their release from captivity a week after they were kidnapped by Boko Haram 

Welcome back: A smiling boy waves from on board a bus as children return to Katsina a week after their abduction, for which the Islamist group claimed responsibility on Tuesday

Welcome back: A smiling boy waves from on board a bus as children return to Katsina a week after their abduction, for which the Islamist group claimed responsibility on Tuesday 

Security: Armed guards looked on as pupils from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara were returned to Nigerian authorities on Friday

Security: Armed guards looked on as pupils from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara were returned to Nigerian authorities on Friday 

A boy wipes his face with his shirt after more than 300 children were handed over to security operatives on Thursday

A boy wipes his face with his shirt after more than 300 children were handed over to security operatives on Thursday 

The abduction evoked memories of the 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, only around half of whom have been found or freed.  

Hours before the rescue of the boys was announced, a purported Boko Haram video appeared to show militants with some of the boys. 

In the clips, a distraught teenager, surrounded by dozens of younger boys, speaks in English and Hausa saying: 'We have been caught by the gang of Abu Shekau.'


His voice starts to falter as he says: 'Please, please, we need your assistance,' while the other children shout out to the camera before the recording ends.

The video was released with a recording made by the group's elusive leader Abubakar Shekau. 

Abducted from the all-boys Government Science Secondary School in Kankara on December 11, the boys were targeted because Boko Haram regard Western education as un-Islamic, according to Shekau. 

The assault was initially blamed on criminal gangs who have terrorised the region for years, but Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Tuesday.  

One of the boys makes a phone call after the children returned to a government building on Friday more than a week after their abduction by kidnappers on motorcycles

One of the boys makes a phone call after the children returned to a government building on Friday more than a week after their abduction by kidnappers on motorcycles

The children returned on buses today, some of them wrapped in grey blankets and looking exhausted after their week-long ordeal

The children returned on buses today, some of them wrapped in grey blankets and looking exhausted after their week-long ordeal 

Some of the children carried their blankets as they were led into the government building in Katsina state on Friday

Some of the children carried their blankets as they were led into the government building in Katsina state on Friday 

More than 800 pupils were in attendance at the time of the attack, more than 330 of whom were taken while others escaped. 

The governor announced their release late on Thursday, saying 344 pupils had been recovered by security operatives. 

'We are very grateful. We are very grateful. We are very grateful,' a man who said he was the father of two of the boys told the Arise television station. 

However, it remained unclear whether all the abducted schoolboys had been released, amid ongoing uncertainty over the number taken in the first place.  

Parents have been gathering at the school daily since the abduction, desperate for any information about the children's fate.

'I was about to leave yesterday evening when a boy who escaped was brought here,' said one mother Murja Goma, before the children were rescued.

A distraught teenager in what appeared to be a video released by Boko Haram on Thursday. Surrounded by dozens of younger boys, he speaks in English and Hausa saying: 'We have been caught by the gang of Abu Shekau', referring to the group's elusive leader

A distraught teenager in what appeared to be a video released by Boko Haram on Thursday. Surrounded by dozens of younger boys, he speaks in English and Hausa saying: 'We have been caught by the gang of Abu Shekau', referring to the group's elusive leader 

Protesters marched in northwestern Nigeria on Thursday under a banner reading #BringBackOurBoys as pressure mounted on the government to secure their release

Protesters marched in northwestern Nigeria on Thursday under a banner reading #BringBackOurBoys as pressure mounted on the government to secure their release 

'He said they had no food to eat, that they live on leaves and acacia fruit that their captors pluck from the trees for them,' the mother said. 

'We have shed so much tears, our hearts are grieving and we don't even know what to do,' the woman said. 

Authorities will be 'working with the police and also to engage private security firms to safeguard schools' and prevent the 'ugly experience of the last six days,' the regional governor said.  

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari welcomed the boys' release, calling it 'a big relief to their families, the entire country and to the international community.'

Buhari said his government was 'acutely aware of its responsibility to protect the life and property of the Nigerians.'

'We have a lot of work to do, especially now that we have reopened the borders,' Buhari said, noting that the north-west region 'presents a problem' that the administration 'is determined to deal with.'

 

Shoes of the kidnapped students from Government Science Secondary School are seen inside their class room Kankara, Nigeria

Shoes of the kidnapped students from Government Science Secondary School are seen inside their class room Kankara, Nigeria

Boko Haram, and a splinter group the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), are waging an insurgency in Nigeria northeast and are thought to have only a minor presence in the northwest. However, Tuesday's claim of responsibility marks a major turning point - suggesting that the Islamists have made major inroads into the northwest

Boko Haram, and a splinter group the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), are waging an insurgency in Nigeria northeast and are thought to have only a minor presence in the northwest. However, Tuesday's claim of responsibility marks a major turning point - suggesting that the Islamists have made major inroads into the northwest

Parents of the missing Government Science secondary school students wait for news on their children in Kankara , Nigeria, Wednesday

Parents of the missing Government Science secondary school students wait for news on their children in Kankara , Nigeria, Wednesday

School bags of the kidnapped student from Government Science Secondary School are seen inside their class room in Kankara

School bags of the kidnapped student from Government Science Secondary School are seen inside their class room in Kankara

Freed from Boko Haram: Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys huddle in a government building as they return from their ordeal with Islamist captors Freed from Boko Haram: Hundreds of Nigerian schoolboys huddle in a government building as they return from their ordeal with Islamist captors Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 07:48 Rating: 5

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