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/ Source: Reuters

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram is still holding captive 85 girls it abducted from a raid on a high school earlier this week, although 44 others were freed, government officials said Saturday.

Monday's mass abduction of schoolgirls aged 15 to 18 by Boko Haram, who are fighting for a breakaway Islamic state in northern Nigeria, shocked Africa's most populous country.

The Islamists attacked Chibok school in Borno state, a remote area in Nigeria. Most of the 129 girls staying at the school were abducted, although the precise number isn't clear.

Sixteen students had managed to flee back home during the night of the attack, while another 28 had escaped after being abducted, Borno State Education Commissioner Inuwa Kubo said in a statement Saturday.

With the majority of the girls still missing almost a week later, families are growing restless.

French news publication Liberation reported that parents of the missing children have launched a search in hopes of uncovering the whereabouts of their children — after the Nigerian military erroneously reported Wednesday that all but eight had been reunited with their families.

“Certain parents are scouring up to the brush,” Chibok Principal Asabe Kwambura told Liberation, referring to the woodland terrain of northeastern Nigeria.

Kubo added: "We continually pray that all our students return in good health."

A still from a video obtained by AFP on Friday shows a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.AFP - Getty Images

— Mel Bailey with Reuters