Hundreds of other students were able to escape during the attack, authorities said. Most of the students that escaped were able to take advantage of the chaos that ensued during the gunfight between the police and the attackers.
Students that escaped told reporters that many of them were being rounded up and forced to walk to a nearby forest.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s office said on Wednesday that they are now negotiating with the terrorist group for the return of the students.
“The kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already on, pertaining to the safety and return of the students,” a spokesperson for the president’s office told reporters.
Local media outlet The Daily Nigerian claimed that it had also received an audio message from the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, who claimed responsibility for the attack. Although, there has been no independent verification to authenticate the message.
The Daily Nigerian said that Shekau conducted the attack on the government school because it was teaching students “western education,” which is against the tenets of Islam.
This isn’t the first mass abduction conducted by the Islamic extremist group. In 2014, the group kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from their dormitory at the Government Secondary School in Chibok in northeastern Borno State. Around 100 of those that were abducted still remain missing to this day.
Authorities said that the recent attack could be the start of a new wave of religious extremism in the country. Over the past decade, Boko Haram and groups like it have escalated their campaign to enforce strict Islamic rule. Officials said that thousands have been killed in various conflicts with the extremist group and more than a million people have been displaced.