The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) last night announced that 121 of the female students abducted from the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on Monday night, had been freed by the military.
The principal of the school confirmed the release, adding that eight of the students were still missing, but DHQ spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade said efforts were underway to locate them.
One of the terrorists who carried out the attack on the school was also captured, he added.
The DHQ spokesman, Olukolade maintained that a total of 129 students were abducted by a group of terrorists. He however assured Nigerians that the security forces were working together with the locals to ensure that all the students regained their freedom.
A security source also said that some of the abductors are well known to the members of the community who were making frantic efforts yesterday to ensure that the girls were freed, Thisday reports.
In his reaction to the kidnapping of the schoolgirls, former British Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr. Gordon Brown, UNICEF said it was time for the world to wake up to the threat to girls and boys who simply want to go to school in Nigeria.
Drawing the attention of the world to the plight of school children in the North-east, Brown said: “Over 100 girls were abducted in an attack on a school in North-east Nigeria earlier today. A few weeks ago, over 40 children were murdered in an attack on their school.
“The abduction from the school in Chibok, Borno State, follows the bombings yesterday, which killed more than 70 people in the capital, Abuja.
“The attacks are blamed on the same group, Boko Haram, whose name means, ‘Western education is forbidden’.
“The threat to children who simply want an education has led to hundreds of deaths in the last three years. Massacres of innocent boys and girls are not uncommon. This year alone, the group’s fighters have killed more than 1,500 civilians, hundreds of them children, in three states in North-east Nigeria.
“Boko Haram condemns what they say is a ‘Western-style education’, and its militants frequently target schools and educational institutions.
“Approximately one dozen girls escaped last night’s (Monday) attack. Running into the bush and wandering until daybreak, they returned to Chibok to find over 170 houses burnt down from the attack.”
Brown pledged the commitment of the UN to continue to support the Nigerian government to ensure that violence against children is stopped and all Nigerian boys and girls have the right to go to school safely.
Similarly, China yesterday condemned the girls’ abduction and voiced its firm support for the Nigerian government.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, was quoted by the country’s news agency Xinhua, in conjunction with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as saying: “In reference to the raid on the girls’ college in Chibok Town in northeastern Nigeria, China strongly condemns and opposes terrorism in all forms.
“We urge the immediate release of those innocent students and assurance of their safety.”
She said China, as Nigeria’s strategic cooperative partner, would continue to firmly support the Nigerian government to safeguard its national security and stability.
On the same note, UNICEF yesterday condemned in strong terms the abduction of the schoolgirls from their school hostel and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
In a statement issued by UNICEF and signed by Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, the UN body said it “is deeply concerned about the persistent trend of attacks on schools in Nigeria. Most recently, unidentified gunmen killed 53 children between 13 and 17 years old at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, in February”.
“Such brutal acts of violence are unacceptable. Attacks on schools deny children their right to learn in a safe environment and can rob them of their future. Wherever it takes place, abduction of children is a crime and illegal under international law,” Fontaine said.
While expressing its solidarity with the communities affected by the horrific acts, UNICEF assured the affected communities that it “stands with the families of the abducted children in these difficult times” as well as called for greater efforts to protect all children throughout Nigeria.
Fontaine added: “The Nigerian government should urgently take steps to make sure that the children are returned to their families unharmed and that they can continue their education in a safe environment.”