The Nigerian military rescued 76 schoolgirls and recovered the bodies of two others after they went missing during a Boko Haram attack on a village, parents, a resident and a local government official told Reuters.
“Everybody is celebrating their coming with songs and praises to God almighty,” said Babagana Umar, a parent whose daughter disappeared. “The only sad news is two girls are dead and no explanation.”
The rescued girls were returned to Dapchi village on Wednesday evening, Umar and other residents said.
At least 13 students may still be missing. Reuters was unable to determine how the two girls died. Earlier on Wednesday, sources told Reuters 91 people were unaccounted for after a roll-call at their school on Tuesday.
Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram attacked Dapchi in Yobe state on Monday.
Police and state officials said there was no evidence the girls were abducted, though the Yobe government later said in a statement the military rescued some students from Boko Haram.
Nigerian authorities often deny or downplay incidents, including the Chibok girl kidnapping and more recent abductions, as well as the scale of Boko Haram attacks in the north-east.
Nigeria is still haunted by Boko Haram’s abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014. That case drew global attention to the nine-year insurgency, which sparked what the United Nations called one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
President Muhammadu Buhari dispatched his foreign and defence ministers to Yobe to investigate, said Information Minister Lai Mohammed, also headed there. He declined to confirm whether any students were still missing.
Parents and witnesses told Reuters of the missing students spoke on condition of anonymity because they were warned by Nigerian security and government officials not to disclose the disappearance.
SHOTS FIRED AT SCHOOL
Boko Haram militants arrived in Dapchi on Monday in trucks, some with heavy guns and painted in military camouflage, witnesses told Reuters.
They went directly to the school, shooting sporadically, sending students and teachers fleeing, witnesses said, adding some people returned to Dapchi after spending the night in the bush.
Yobe state Police Commissioner Sumonu Abdulmaliki told reporters Boko Haram abducted three people from nearby Gaidam.
More than 20,000 people have been killed and two million forced to flee in the north-east of Africa’s most populous nation since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009.
Of about 270 girls abducted from their school in Chibok in April 2014, some 60 escaped soon afterward and others have since been released after mediation. Around 100 are still believed to be in captivity.
Last month, Boko Haram released a video purporting to show some Chibok girls still in its custody, saying they do not wish to return home.
Aid groups said Boko Haram kidnapped thousands more adults and children, many of whose cases have been neglected.