A schoolboy survived and managed to escape from armed kidnappers in Kankara, northwest Nigeria, who took off with hundreds of students.
He recounts Friday’s ordeal, which Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for.
Umar Ahmed told AFP gunmen arrived as he was preparing to go to bed.
His first thought was that the men were vigilantes — civilians who take on a policing role — “so, we were not scared,” the 18-year-old said.
But then, heavy firing started.
“When we come back to our hostels after the night prep, suddenly when we come back and were preparing to sleep, suddenly we hear the gunshot and everybody – every student was running away from the hostels,” the 18-year-old said.
“We became terrified. Some of us ran to the perimeter fence trying to escape, while others hid inside.”
“They kept shouting we should come back, that they were in the school to rescue us. And most of us came back.”
Hundreds of students were rounded up at the all-boys Government Science secondary school and taken away.
The incident was initially blamed on so-called bandits — criminal groups in the region who for years have terrorised communities by killing and abducting people for ransom.
But on Tuesday, Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, claimed responsibility.
He says the students were rounded up and split into three groups. They were then led through the forest.
The kidnappers flogged them with branches and the flat side of their machete as they trekked for hours, heading towards neighbouring Zamfara state.
But he was lucky as he managed to hide behind a bush with a friend and waited for complete silence before he made his way home.
“When they tell us to wake up and start moving… I did not wake up, I slept under a tree and I didn’t wake up. And I was praying, I didn’t stand.
“They moved the others to go but I didn’t go anywhere because I was under the tree, I was sleeping, so they moved and left me there.”
For Umar’s parent’s it’s a relief to have him back in safety but many others are awaiting news and gather at the school every day.
“When my son returned, we were happy but not very because many others are still in the forest with them, so it makes us sad, but happy for his return,” Umar’s father said.
It is thought that Boko Haram, who abducted hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014. recruited three local gangs in the region for Friday’s kidnapping.
The government has not immediately reacted to Boko Haram’s claim or confirmed its authenticity.
It is also unclear how many students are missing. Two officials put the number between 320 or 333. But locals in Kankara put it at more than 500.
Among parents of missing students, many said they had long feared an attack, given the grip on the region by criminal gangs.
“Our children told us armed men would come up to the school fence but they never breached the fence… until last Friday,” Hauwa’u Isah, mother of an abducted child said.
Around 8,000 people have been killed in the northwest since 2011, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.