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Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls freed

Hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls freed
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Nigerian officials on Tuesday announced that hundreds of girls have been freed days after being abducted from a boarding school in the country’s northwest. 

Bello Matawalle, governor of Nigeria’s Zamfara state, said that a total of 279 girls as young as 10 years old had been rescued, The Associated Press reported, ending the latest in a series of kidnappings in the West African country. 

Reuters reported that the local government last week said that a total of 317 girls had been kidnapped, though a Zamfara government official said Tuesday that the total was actually 279, as some of the girls had run away at the time of the abduction. 

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Matawalle tweeted Tuesday, “Alhamdulillah! [God be praised!] It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students.” 

“This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts,” he continued, adding, “I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.”

According to Reuters, the girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in the town of Jangebe just after midnight Friday. 

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Matawalle said repentant bandits working with the government had helped secure the Jangebe schoolgirls’ release. 

The abduction came about a week after gunmen rushed a secondary school in Nigeria’s Niger state. The gunmen on Saturday released 27 teenage boys who had been taken from the Government Science college, Reuters reported. 

Government officials who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity said the rise in abductions has been partially fueled by government payoffs in exchange for hostages, a practice Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned Tuesday.

Matawalle’s special media adviser, Zailani Bappa, said that authorities in Zamfara state had not paid any ransom in exchange for the Jangebe schoolgirls’ release, but they offered amnesty.

Nigerian schools have been targeted by armed groups in recent years, including by jihadist organization Boko Haram, which is fervently opposed to western education. 

The most notorious of the group’s kidnappings occurred in April 2014, when it abducted 276 girls from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. 

According to the AP, more than 100 of the girls who were kidnapped nearly seven years ago remain missing.