April 16, 2014 3:58 PM EDT

Updated at 5:18 p.m. ET

More than 100 Nigerian schoolchildren abducted by gunmen Tuesday were released Wednesday after first being taken to an area known to be an Islamist stronghold. Nigeria’s defense ministry confirmed Wednesday that 129 schoolgirls in total were taken in the northeastern state of Borno before a few escaped their captors. All but eight of the girls have now been released, though it was not immediately clear why.

Some of the girls who escaped before the release said the kidnapped girls had been taken to an area where Islamist extremist group Boko Haram is known to have camps, a tribal chief told the AFP. Nigerian officials blame Boko Haram for a bombing in the Nigerian capital of Abuja just hours before the mass abduction that killed 75 people.

The governor of Borno said 14 of the hostages had escaped in total. The governor is offering 50 million naira, or approximately $300,000, to anyone who can provide information that leads to the rescue of the remaining hostages.

Gunmen on Tuesday reportedly torched buildings and opened fire on guards at the Government Girls Secondary School on before forcing their way into the school. They then loaded dozens of schoolgirls into trucks and drove off. Some girls jumped from the vehicles carrying them away while some of the gunmen were distracted, getting away from their captors.

Boko Haram has been attacking schools, universities and other targets over the past several years as a part of an ongoing rebellion against Nigeria’s government and Western influence. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands since 2009, AFP reports.


More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

You May Also Like