Usama Aminu was one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape when gunmen abducted more than 300 pupils from his school in north western Nigeria.
“When I decided to run they brought a knife to slaughter me but I ran away quickly,” he said, sitting on a mat and speaking softly as he described how he had been in bed at the all-boys school in Kankara when he heard gunshots on Friday night.
At first, he said, the boys thought the commotion was from soldiers trying to protect them, but the attackers, armed with AK-47s, were already inside the building, threatening groups who tried to leave their dormitories at the Government Science secondary school in an attack that has outraged Nigerians.
“They said they would kill whoever is trying to escape then I began to run, climbing one rock to another through a forest,” Aminu said.
Muhammad Abubakar, 15, was another pupil who got away, trekking through farmland and a forest in the dark. He said he was among 72 boys who had reached safety in the village of Kaikaibise where he ended up.
Many details of the raid and its aftermath remain unknown for the time being.
Police said on Friday they exchanged fire with the attackers, allowing some students to run for safety. According to Katsina Governor Aminu Bello Masari on Sunday, 333 students remained missing.
The president’s office said on Monday the government was in contact with the armed men and was negotiating the release of the boys after security agencies had located them.
“We are making progress and the outlook is positive,” Masari told reporters on Monday, after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari, who was on a week-long visit to his home state.
The governor said the president was fully committed to the rescue of the schoolchildren, after he had been criticised in Nigerian newspapers for not visiting the school.
It is still not clear who the gunmen were and officials do not yet know the motive of the attack.
Attacks by armed gangs, widely known as bandits, are common throughout the north western region of Nigeria. The groups attack civilians, stealing or kidnapping them for ransom.