Some of the 344 schoolboys kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this month have spoken out about their terrifying six-day ordeal. The boys, who were taken from dormitories at the Kankara Government Science School in northwest Nigeria on Dec. 11, say they were marched into the bush by a group of around 100 armed men who initially claimed to be soldiers. They say stragglers and those who tried to escape were beaten and their captors told them they would be killed if ransom wasn't paid. They were released after six nights in captivity and while the Nigerian government says no ransom was paid, some of the boys say they heard the kidnappers discussing negotiations, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The attackers were initially thought to be Boko Haram militants, who have carried out previous mass kidnappings, but authorities now say the men were local bandits. Terrorism analysts suspect that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau agreed to release a video claiming responsibility for the kidnapping in return for a cut of the ransom payment, the Journal reports. Two days after the boys were released, around 80 other students were captured in a nearby area, but they were quickly rescued by police, the AP reports. The Kankara boys say that before their captors handed them over to security agents, they were told that if they ever returned to school, they would be killed—or kidnapped again. (More Nigeria stories.)