Nigerian soldiers reportedly shot at least three people on Wednesday at a Nigerian Army handover ceremony to return 277 schoolgirls recently freed by their Jihadi kidnappers to their parents in Zamfara state.
Parents at the ceremony reportedly grew frustrated at how long the event was taking and began throwing stones at Nigerian government officials organizing the handover. Nigerian security forces responded to the stoning by opening fire into the crowd of parents, injuring at least three people. It remains unclear if there were any deaths related to the incident.
“Angered by officials’ insistence on a formal handover before parents could leave with their children, mobs began throwing stones at officials outside the school in the remote village of Jangebe when the girls were returned,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on March 3.
“One person was shot in the stomach when security personnel opened fire and was carried away by others in the crowd,” Jangebe resident Bello Gidan-Ruwa told AFP by phone after leaving the ceremony.
Nigerian government officials organizing the event reportedly insisted that the girls first be handed over to a local village chief before they could be reunited with their parents.
“It is infuriating for (officials) to say they had to finish their speeches before handing over our children to us. This is outrageous,” one mother told AFP, explaining that parents were eager to walk their daughters home to nearby villages before nightfall.
“They know the roads are insecure but they didn’t care. If we leave late and are kidnapped with our daughters again, the girls’ rescue will make no sense,” she added.
Many fed-up parents defied the ceremony’s lengthy protocol and began to personally retrieve their children from the building.
“Shooting by the security forces began when the crowd began pelting a convoy carrying regional parliament speaker Nasiru Mu’azu Magarya with stones as it tried to leave the village,” according to AFP.
Despite the chaos, all 277 girls kidnapped from their government-run school in Zamfara last week were released to their parents on March 3, according to Nigerian officials.
The girls were abducted from Jangebe’s Government Secondary School in northwestern Nigeria’s Zamfara state on February 26 by local militants believed to be associated with the terror group Boko Haram, which has carried out an Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria since the early 2000s and recently ramped up school kidnappings across the region.
The Zamfara girls were released on March 2 under unclear circumstances. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, Boko Haram is known to contract criminal gangs in northern Nigeria to help stage kidnappings for ransom. Nigerian government authorities have denied paying a ransom to secure the Zamfara girls’ release this week.