KANO, Nigeria 

Gunmen in Nigeria have released 28 of 121 students they abducted from a local Baptist high school after holding them for 20 days, officials said on Sunday.

Two of the students from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State had earlier escaped from the attackers, locally known as bandits, who had previously released one of their captives on health grounds.

The released children will be reunited with their families, said Reverend John Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna, adding that about 80 students were still being held captive by the bandits, who stormed the school on July 5 demanding 500,000 Nigerian nairas ($1,215) for each of the students.

Spokesman for the Nigeria Police, Mohammed Jalige said that on July 12, officers on routine rescue patrol in the afternoon had stumbled upon three kidnapped victims “roaming the bush, extremely exhausted and weak.”

Two other students escaped on July 20 when they were tasked by their captors to fetch firewood from a nearby forest.

Confirming the development, the police spokesman said the two students were sighted around the along the highway to Abuja, the country’s capital.

“Yes, two of the students were rescued this evening along the Kaduna-Abuja highway and they are undergoing medical examinations,” he said.

President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention Israel Akanji had earlier ruled out any ransom payments to the attackers for the students’ release.

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