Kidnappers have released girls who were abducted from a boarding school in the northwest Nigerian state of Zamfara on Friday, governor of the state told Al Jazeera.
Bello Matawalle said on Tuesday the students were safe with authorities and no ransom was paid for their release.
“Today, we have received the children who were under captivity since Friday. I initiated a peace accord, which yielded a positive result. No ransom was paid to anyone. I insisted that we were not going to give anything to any of them,” Matawalle told Al Jazeera.
The governor said the students were been taken to a health facility for medical examination.
Police initially said 317 girls were abducted in the raid by hundreds of gunmen on the Government Girls Secondary School in remote Jangebe village. But Matawalle told Al Jazeera the “total number of female students abducted” was 279.
Government officials had been in talks with the kidnappers – known as bandits – following Nigeria’s third school attack in less than three months.
Heavily armed criminal gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging.
The Nigerian military deployed to the area in 2016 and a peace deal with bandits was signed in 2019 but attacks have continued.
In December, more than 300 boys were kidnapped from a school in Kankara, in President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, while he was visiting the region.
The boys were later released but the incident triggered outrage and memories of the kidnappings of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok that shocked the world.
Many of those girls are still missing.
The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings.
But there are concerns they are being infiltrated by rebel groups.
Kidnapping for ransom in Africa’s most populous country is already a widespread national problem, with businessmen, officials and ordinary citizens snatched from the streets by criminals hunting for ransom money.
At least $11m was paid to kidnappers between January 2016 and March 2020, according to SB Morgen, a Lagos-based geopolitical research consultancy.