A total of 344 boys were released Thursday after being abducted last week by gunmen from their school in Nigeria.
“This is a huge relief to the entire country and international community,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari posted on Twitter. “The entire country is grateful to [Katsina state] Governor [Aminu Bello] Masari, the intelligence agencies, the military and the police force.”
Some boys, however, remain missing, Masari told state television.
“We have recovered most of the boys. It’s not all of them,” he said on state channel NTA, noting that the boys who were released were found in a forest in neighboring Zamfara state.
Masari said the boys would be reunited with their families Friday in the state capital after undergoing medical examinations.
It was not immediately clear if a ransom had been paid for the children’s release.
Before news of the boys’ release, a father of one of the kidnapped boys told The New York Times that he was in despair because “We don’t know if he has eaten, if he’s sick, dead or alive.”
News of the boys’ release came shortly after a video appeared on social media Thursday, purportedly showing some of the hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian schoolboys with the Boko Haram Islamist militant group. The video showed a group of boys in a wooded area imploring security forces to leave the area.
Nigerian spokesperson Abdul Labaran said in a statement the video was authentic but a message from the group’s leader was by an impersonator.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse were not able to immediately confirm the authenticity of the video, but AFP reported it received the footage on the same channel previously used by Boko Haram.
The jihadist group claimed responsibility earlier this week for the Dec. 11 kidnappings in northwest Nigeria but provided no proof. If Boko Haram’s claims are valid, its presence in the country’s northwestern Katsina state indicates it has expanded its activities into new territory.
The video, which also featured Boko Haram’s logo, showed a distressed teenager surrounded by a large group of boys saying he was one of the 520 students kidnapped by the “gang of Abu Shekau.”
The raid last Friday on a school in rural Kankara was first blamed on criminals who have terrorized the area for years.
But Boko Haram subsequently claimed responsibility for the incursion, which took place hundreds of kilometers from its birthplace a decade ago in northeast Nigeria.
In 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 270 girls from the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. Dozens of the girls never returned to their homes.