March 21 (UPI) -- Boko Haram on Wednesday released most of the schoolgirls who remained captive since their abductions last month from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi.
The Nigerian army rescued about 80 girls two days after they were kidnapped Feb. 19 at a border town between Borno and Yobe. Five of the 110 girls were trampled to death in overcrowded trucks the day they were taken. It was unclear exactly how many of the roughly two dozen remaining girls were freed Wednesday.
Witness Mohammed Mdada said the girls were whipped as they were kidnapped by militants.
"Dapchi is full of joy," he said. "Boko Haram men brought back the girls this morning."
As the radical militant group freed the girls Wednesday, they apologized to parents and shook hands before driving away.
Mdada said the militants explained that the girls were taken because the Nigerian-born terror group initially believed they were Christian.
"They said that if they knew they were Muslim girls, they wouldn't have abducted them," Mdada said.
Mdada added that the militants warned the girls they should stay away from school "and swore that if they came back and found any girl in school, they would abduct them again and never give them back."
The human rights group says the army and police received at least five calls the day of the kidnappings, which warned that gunmen were targeting the school.
Boko Haram, a group opposed western-style education, kidnapped 270 girls from a school in Chibok four years ago -- and about 20,000 people have been killed since the terrorist group began its insurgency there in 2009.