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DAPCHI, Nigeria — Dozens of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria are still missing after three days, the local governor said Thursday.
Thousands of people have been kidnapped by the Islamist group during its near decade-long insurgency in the West African country.
This week's incident carries particular echoes of the most infamous abduction — the 276 girls taken in April 2014 who became known as the "Chibok girls" — because the latest victims were also abducted during an attack on their school.
Boko Haram drove into the village of Dapchi on Monday night in trucks, some camouflaged and mounted with heavy guns. They attacked the school, sending hundreds of students fleeing. An unknown number were kidnapped.
There is confusion about what happened next.
On Wednesday, the government said 76 of the kidnapped girls had been rescued by the military, sparking celebration in the streets.
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But a day later, Ibrahim Gaidam, the governor of Yobe state where the incident happened, told villagers all of the victims were still unaccounted for, according to an apologetic statement from his spokesman.
"The government said yesterday the girls have been found, then the governor came today to say the soldiers are yet to find them," said Ali Maidoya, who lives in Dapchi. "Why did they lie to us before?"
A roll call at the girls' school Tuesday showed 91 students were absent, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters Wednesday. Other estimates from local police and government officials range from around 50 to more than 100 missing.
One witness told Reuters on Wednesday he had seen three trucks filled with weeping girls as he was forced by the militants to guide them away from the region.
The attack was likely carried out by a Boko Haram faction allied with Islamic State, two people briefed on the matter told Reuters, declining to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Last year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari agreed to pay millions of dollars to secure the release of some of the Chibok girls, after negotiations with Boko Haram aided by Switzerland and the Red Cross.
The Dapchi kidnapping may have been carried out in the hope of securing a similar ransom, one of the people briefed on the matter tole Reuters.
Although the Chibok girls are the most well known, Boko Haram has carried out countless abductions. In 2015, Amnesty International put the number of victims at 2,000 but that figure has risen since then.
Nigerian authorities denied and played down the Chibok kidnapping and others. Residents now fear the same is happening in Dapchi.
"We were happy yesterday when the government said they have found our daughters. Now the story has changed," said Ali Yari.
On Wednesday, parents and other local witnesses told Reuters they had been warned by Nigerian security and government officials not to disclose the students' disappearance.
Soldiers now prowl the village and guard the perimeter fence of the school, which is almost deserted except for a few police.