KATSINA, NIGERIA — Dozens of kidnapped school boys arrived back home on Friday a day after security forces rescued them in northwest Nigeria.
Television pictures showed the boys, many of them wearing light green uniforms and clutching blankets, arriving on buses, looking weary but otherwise well.
Gunmen raided the boys' secondary school in Kankara town, Katsina state, on Friday last week and marched around 350 of them into the vast Rugu forest. It was not clear if all of them had been recovered in the rescue operation.
None of the boys spoke as they walked from the bus in single file, flanked by soldiers, into a government building. A group of their parents waited to be reunited with them in another part of town.
"I couldn't believe what I heard until neighbours came to inform me that it's true," Hafsat Funtua, mother of 16-year-old Hamza Naziru, said earlier in a phone interview.
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Describing the moment she heard the news, she said she ran out of her house with joy "not knowing where to go" before returning home to pray.
Another parent, Husseini Ahmed, whose 14-year-old Mohammed Husseini was also among those abducted, expressed happiness and relief that he would soon be reunited with his son.
"We are happy and anxiously expecting their return," he said.
Hours before the rescue of the boys was announced, a video started circulating online purportedly showing Islamist militants from Boko Haram with some of the boys. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the authenticity of the footage or who released it.
The mass abduction has piled pressure onto the government to deal with militants in the north of the country, particularly on President Muhammadu Buhari, who comes from Katsina and has repeatedly said that Boko Haram has been "technically defeated."