Last Updated Mar 21, 2018 6:25 AM EDT
LAGOS, Nigeria — Boko Haram extremists have returnedfrom their Nigeria boarding school a month ago with an ominous warning, witnesses said Wednesday.
The fighters rolled into town around 2 a.m. in nine vehicles and the girls were left in the center of town. As terrified residents emerged from their homes, the extremists said “this is a warning to you all,” resident Ba’ana Musa told The Associated Press.
“We did it out of pity. And don’t ever put your daughters in school again,” the extremists told the residents of Dapchi. Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language.
An aide to President Muhammadu Buhari cited the country’s information minister as saying the release of the 76 girls had been confirmed, and the fate of the remaining 34 schoolgirls was not clear. Family members were en route to the town Wednesday morning.
“When I get there we will do a head count to see if all of them have been released,” said Bashir Manzo, whose 16-year-old daughter was among those kidnapped during the Feb. 19 attack.
Manzo confirmed that his daughter was among those freed.
“As I speak to you there is jubilation in Dapchi,” he said.
The mass abduction and the government response brought back painful memories of thein Chibok. Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls, and about 100 of them have never returned. Some girls were forced to marry their captors, and many had children fathered by the militants.
Residents in Dapchi fled on Wednesday morning upon hearing that Boko Haram vehicles were headed toward the town.
“We fled but, from our hiding, we could see them and surprisingly, we saw our girls getting out of the vehicles,” Umar Hassan told the AP.
“They assembled the girls and talked to them for some few minutes and left without any confrontation,” said another resident, Kachallah Musa.
Their release comes a day after an Amnesty International report accused the Nigerian military of failing to heed several warnings of the imminent attack last month. The military has called the report an “outright falsehood.”
Nigeria’s government celebrated the girls’ release. “GREAT NEWS from Dapchi, Yobe State. Thank God for the safe return of our sisters. Alhamdulillah!” an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Ahmad, said on Twitter.
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