According to CNN, the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Wednesday that most of the Dapchi, Nigeria schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram were released and have been reunited with their families. Mohammed said that an official headcount conducted by the government showed that 104 out of the 110 schoolgirls had been reunited with their families in the town of Dapchi.
According to various reports, the schoolgirls had been kidnapped from the Dapchi town in the northeastern region of the country in February. They were attending the Government Science and Technical College in the Yobe district. Among the kidnapped girls was a lone boy, according to the minister. "He was also picked from the school. I don't know what he was doing there," Mohammed said in a statement.
Mohammed noted that Boko Haram kidnappers did not demand any sort of ransom for the girls but they did give a warning to the parents. He said,
The only thing they asked for was that they should be the ones to drop them off. They didn't want to hand them over to any third party. Nothing was given in exchange for them.
The February kidnapping is one of the country's most notorious incidents after another kidnapping took place four years ago. In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls in the Borno state, according to Al Jazeera. Their grieving families continue waiting for them.
According to a Facebook post from Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the girls had been successfully freed after the government followed "back-channel efforts" and took the "help of some friends of the country." The post noted that Mohammed said any sort of armed attack would have harmed government efforts, so the administration had to use non-aggressive means to free the young girls.
"For the release to work, the government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option," Mohammed said in the statement on Facebook.
According to media reports, parents of the girls who had been kidnapped were thrilled to see their daughters. Bashir Manzo, one of the fathers who was reunited with his daughter, told Al Jazeera, "As I speak to you there is jubilation in Dapchi."
Initially, Al Jazeera reports, people in Dapchi were afraid when they learned that the Boko Haram group was on its way to their northeastern town. One Umer Hassan told Associated Press, "We fled but from our hiding we could see them and surprisingly, we saw our girls getting out of the vehicles." In photos shared in the BBC's report, locals in Dapchi could be seen celebrating the reunion with their loved ones.
While most of the kidnapped schoolgirls were reunited with their families, at least five did not make it, according to the Nigerian government. One of the girls who was freed told the BBC that the girls were crushed during commotion while being loaded into the vehicles by Boko Haram.
Nigerian social media users praised the government's efforts to bring the girls back to their families safe and sound. A Twitter user who claimed to work for Alpha Reach media company, J.J. Omojuwa, tweeted that though it was wonderful that the families were back with their young girls, the government should explain what it did in order to repeat that strategy so that a similar tragedy can be avoided. "We are glad they are back but let's not miss a chance to learn how to do better," he said.
One of the witnesses, Kachalla Bukar, told CNN that Boko Haram members returned the girls to Dapchi residents and "apologized to the villagers" but did not give a reason for bringing the girls back to their homes. However, culture and information minister Mohammed noted that Boko Haram warned parents not to send the girls back to school.