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Gunmen release nearly 300 schoolchildren kidnapped in Nigeria

A group of abducted students are seen after their rescue in Kankara, Katsina State, Nigeria, on December 18, 2020. Dozens of different students who were kidnapped in northern Nigeria last week have since been released, officials said Tuesday. File Photo by EPA-EFE
A group of abducted students are seen after their rescue in Kankara, Katsina State, Nigeria, on December 18, 2020. Dozens of different students who were kidnapped in northern Nigeria last week have since been released, officials said Tuesday. File Photo by EPA-EFE

March 2 (UPI) -- Nearly 300 girls who were abducted from a government-run school in northern Nigeria last week have been released, officials said Tuesday.

Police said on Friday that 279 schoolgirls were taken from the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote village of Jangebe.

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Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara state, said Tuesday that all have been freed.

"Today, we have received the children who were under captivity since Friday," Matawalle told Al Jazeera.

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"No ransom was paid to anyone. I insisted that we were not going to give anything to any of them."

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari praised the girls' return and vowed that his government will continue to fight the rash of child kidnappings that have increased in recent years.

"I join the affected families and the people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of the abducted students," Buhari tweeted.

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"This news brings overwhelming joy. I am pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident."

Matawalle said school buses were used to bring the girls back to the state capital, where they were all found to be in good health.

Friday's abduction by armed gunmen was the latest in a series of abductions over the past several years in Nigeria. Militant group Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of the Chibok girls in 2014 and gunmen took 42 staffers and students from a school in Kagara last month. A similar abduction in Kanakar in December took 300 schoolboys, who were later rescued.

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Buhari called the repeated kidnappings at Nigerian boarding schools "grim and heartbreaking."

"The military and the police will continue to go after kidnappers," he added. "They need the support of local communities in terms of human intelligence that can help nip criminal plans in the bud."

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