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Nigeria says 344 students kidnapped last week have been released

Gunmen abducted hundreds of students, in Kankara, Nigeria. (Kola Sulaimon/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

More than 300 students kidnapped in northwest Nigeria last week have been freed after being held captive for six days, according to government officials.

In all, 344 students have been released, Abdu Labaran, a spokesman for Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina state, where the mass kidnapping occurred, said by phone Thursday night. Nigerian authorities didn’t pay a ransom to secure the release of the boys, he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari also welcomed the outcome, congratulating Nigeria’s intelligence agencies and security forces, according to a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu.

Unverified video and audio recordings purportedly made by Boko Haram claimed that the Islamist militant group was responsible for the armed attack on a boys’ boarding school in the northwestern town of Kankara on Friday. Two days later, the Katsina state government said more than 330 pupils were still missing, while nearly 450 had been reunited with their families.

Katsina state is the home region of Buhari, whose administration is struggling to contain widespread insecurity across swaths of northern and central Nigeria.

In recent years, Boko Haram’s decadelong conflict with the military has been concentrated in the northeastern corner of Africa’s most populous country, as well as neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. If the insurgents were behind the assault in Kankara, it could represent an expansion in the group’s reach.

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