Nigerian Military Rescues 76 Schoolgirls After Alleged Boko Haram Attack
Nigerian military officials say they rescued 76 schoolgirls and recovered the bodies of two other students who went missing after an alleged attack by Boko Haram insurgents, according to Reuters.
"Everybody is celebrating their coming with songs and praises to God almighty," Babagana Umar, one of the parents whose daughter had disappeared, told the news wire service.
"The only sad news is that two girls were dead and no explanation," she said.
NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton described, on All Things Considered, a scene of fear and terror as Islamist militants descended on the Government Girls College on Monday.
Twelve vehicles carrying insurgents and heavy weaponry drove into the school campus, opened fire and let off explosives. Students and teachers fled into the surrounding bush amid the ensuing chaos and dozens have not been seen since.
Authorities say they believe the extremists were not after the girls or their teachers, but raided the school seeking food supplies.
Initial reports suggested about 100 students might be missing from the boarding school in the northeastern town of Dapchi.
It is unclear how many students may still be missing, under what circumstances or where they might be.
Abdullahi Bego, a spokesman for Yobe state's governor, told Al Jazeera late on Wednesday that some of the girls from the school had been rescued by the Nigerian army "from Boko Haram militants who abducted them after they attacked the school."
In another interview with Al Jazeera, Abdumaliki Sunmonu said it is difficult to get an exact count on the number of missing girls because "not all of the girls live at the boarding school and some may not have been present at the time of the raid."
Yet, earlier in the day Reuters received conflicting reports from Nigerian police and the regional education ministry, which denied any abductions had taken place.
The attack comes four years after Boko Haram fighters abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in the town of Chibok.
The Chibok girls, as they're called, were held in captivity for three years and finally released in May 2017, after extensive negotiations between the Nigerian government and the homegrown, ISIS-affiliated extremist group.
The fresh memory of that painful saga threw parents of the missing girls into a desperate panic, said Ofeibea. In fact, some said they saw girls herded onto the Islamist fighters' camouflage trucks, though those reports are unverified.
Reuters reported more than 20,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee their homes in the northeast of Africa's most populous nation since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009.
Ofeibea says Nigerian officials have repeatedly stated they've defeated the Boko Haram throughout the country. If, however, the extremist group is behind the attack on the school and disappearance of dozens of girls, authorities will have to admit Boko Haram maintains at least some strongholds in Nigeria.