Update 7:32 a.m. EDT
(Reuters) Authorities in Nigeria's northeast Borno state denied on Thursday a statement by the armed forces which had said most of the more than 100 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels had been freed in a military rescue operation.
"As I am talking to you now, only 14 of the students have returned," an aide to Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima told Reuters, asking not to be named.
The assertion directly contradicted a statement issued late on Wednesday by national armed forces spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade in which he said only eight of the students were still missing after the military operation.
The Borno governor's aide said the 14 girls found safe so far "escaped" and were not rescued.
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Nigeria’s military said Wednesday that its forces had freed nearly 121 schoolgirls who were abducted by Islamist Boko Haram militants from a northeastern Nigerian school on Monday, while forces continued to look for eight other missing students.
In a brief statement, spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade reportedly said that one “terrorist” involved in the abduction from the Chibok government secondary school in northeast Borno state had been captured. Olukolade also added that a search-and-rescue operation is being conducted to "ensure the safety of the remaining students.”
"With this development, the principal of the school has confirmed that only eight of the students are still missing," he reportedly said, in the statement.
An earlier statement from the military reportedly said that 129 students had been kidnapped Monday. According to reports, the Boko Haram attackers had duped the schoolgirls into thinking they were soldiers who had come to protect them, before abducting them.
"When we saw these gunmen, we thought they were soldiers, they told all of us to come and walk to the gates, we followed their instructions," 18-year-old Godiya Isaiah, who managed to flee from her abductors, reportedly told Reuters.
Another student who escaped and declined to be named for security reasons, told CNN: "They forced us into trucks, buses and vans, some of which were carrying foodstuffs and petrol. They left with us in a convoy into the bush," adding: "A group of motorcyclists flanked the convoy to ensure none of us escaped."
The abduction came hours after an explosion, also blamed on Boko Haram, which killed 75 people in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. According to reports, two more attacks killed 20 people Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in villages in northeastern Nigeria.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Nigerian government is struggling to control the violence that has claimed more than 3,000 lives since Boko Haram became active in 2009.