Most of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped last month in Nigeria by the terror group Boko Haram have been released and returned to their hometown of Dapchi, a Nigerian minister said Wednesday.
According to an ongoing headcount, 101 of the girls abducted by militants from their boarding school on February 19 were "dropped off" early Wednesday in Dapchi in northeast Nigeria, minister of information and culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed said in a statement.
The release of the students was ongoing, and the number of freed girls would be updated after the remaining ones were documented, Mohammed said.
Mohammed said the students had been freed following "back channel efforts" by the government, and that their release was unconditional.
"The government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls," he added.
Kachalla Bukar, the secretary of the missing girls' parent's association, told CNN the girls were seen walking into Dapchi at about 7:30 a.m. local time Wednesday.
"The girls said Boko Haram dropped them about 20 kilometers into Dapchi town and told them to find their way," he said. "Parents are rejoicing here, but we can see they have suffered."
Another parent told CNN his daughter Fatima, 14, was in such a poor state, she was unable to stand when he saw her.
Bashir Manzo, the head of the missing girls' parent's association, told CNN: "I was [in jubilation] when I saw Fatima, but she is not well."
"She could not stand but we have admitted her at the hospital," Manzo said. "It's mixed feeling of joy and pain in Dapchi town. Parents who have not seen their daughters are anxious."
Adamu Alhaji-Deri was observing early morning prayers Wednesday morning when he was informed that daughter Ummi, 14, had been found.
"I am so happy because Ummi is fine," he told CNN. "We are all celebrating."
The mass kidnapping brought back painful memories of the 2014 Boko Haram abduction of nearly 300 girls from a separate school in Chibok, 170 miles southeast of Dapchi. More than 100 of them remain in captivity.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has described the kidnappings in Dapchi as a "national disaster" and deployed troops and surveillance aircraft in search of the missing students.
"Let me assure that our gallant armed forces will locate and safely return all the missing girls," Buhari said in a statement on Twitter in February.
But an Amnesty International report on the kidnappings released this week accused the Nigerian army of failing to act on advance warnings of the raid.
According to the report, at least five phone calls were allegedly made to the army and police on the afternoon of the attack, warning the Boko Haram militants were on their way to the school.
"The Nigerian authorities must investigate the inexcusable security lapses that allowed this abduction to take place without any tangible attempt to prevent it," said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International's Nigeria Director.
Nigerian army spokesman John Agim told CNN the allegations weren't true and the army had not been informed.