The fate of more than 100 girls and young women abducted by Islamic extremists was thrown into uncertainty on Thursday when their school principal denied a report from Nigeria’s military that almost all the students were free.
“Up till now we are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students... the security people, especially the vigilantes and the well-meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them. The military people too are in the bush searching,” the principal, Asabe Kwambura, told The Associated Press by telephone.
She said only 14 of the 129 girls kidnapped by gunmen before dawn on Tuesday have returned to Chibok town four who jumped from the back of a truck and 10 who escaped into the bush when their abductors asked them to cook a meal.
Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the Defence Ministry spokesman, said in a statement late Wednesday night that all but eight of the students have been accounted for. “The others have been freed this evening,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Olukolade could not immediately be reached for further comment.
Ms. Kwambura was adamant: “So let it be clear that all the information passed on to the media by the military concerning 107 girls is not true.”
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima offered a reward of some $300,000 for information leading to the release of the young women, aged between 16 and 18.
The government had reported that security forces were in hot pursuit of the militants.
The Boko Haram extremist network has been on a rampage this week, blamed for four attacks in three days that started with a massive explosion at a busy bus station during the Monday morning rush hour in Abuja, the capital that killed at least 75 people.
Two attacks in northeastern villages killed 20 people on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
More than 1,500 people have been killed this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.
The attacks undermine government and military claims that security forces are containing the uprising that began five years ago in the extreme northeast of the country.