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Freed Nigerian school girls to reunite with parents

Medical checks had shown the girls were all fit to return to their families, said Zamfara state education commissioner Ibrahim Abdullahi.

The deserted dormitory is pictured at the Government Girls Secondary School, the day after the abduction of over 300 schoolgirls by gunmen in Jangebe, a village in Zamfara State, northwest of Nigeria on 27 February 2021.  Picture: Kola Sulaimon/AFP

NIGERIA - All the 279 Nigerian schoolgirls released by kidnappers this week will reunite with their parents later on Wednesday, a senior state education official told AFP.

The girls, pupils at Government Secondary School in the remote village of Jangebe in northeastern Zamfara state, were abducted on Friday from their hostels by gunmen known locally as bandits, who released them early on Tuesday.

Since their release, the students have been in government care in the state capital Gusau, where they are receiving medical treatment following their ordeal in captivity.

"We are taking the girls back to the school in Jangebe this afternoon, where they will be handed over to their parents in the school premises," Zamfara state education commissioner Ibrahim Abdullahi told AFP.

"We feel it is safer and easier for parents to pick their children in the school rather than to come to Gusau to claim their wards," he said.

Medical checks had shown the girls were all fit to return to their families, Abdullahi added.

One of the girls, Hafsat Umar Anka, on Tuesday, recalled harrowing experiences during their abduction.

"We trekked all the way," she said, speaking in Hausa.

"Some of us developed sore feet while others could not walk and had to be carried on the back by some of us."

"They threatened to kill anyone of us who refused to stay. We were very cautious. They fed us adequately."

ALSO READ: All 279 kidnapped Nigerian students released: Governor

She added: "We were put in a wide ditch littered with faeces and we were made to sleep there."

UN experts on Wednesday called for urgent rehabilitation of the traumatised students.

"Social inclusion of these children requires the provision of long-term measures aimed at restoring their physical and psychological well-being," the UN Human Rights Special Procedures experts said in a statement.

"Sensitising families and communities to the importance of reintegration is imperative for them to be able to build renewed social relations... and to overcome stigma."

The experts condemned the Nigerian government for the "lack of an effective investigation into the abduction of 344 students from a boys’ boarding school in Kankara, Katsina State, in December 2020 and released a few days later."

Heavily-armed criminal gangs in the northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping, and pillaging.

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