Rayyanu had just finished studying, and was settling down for the night at his boarding school in northwestern Nigeria when he heard the gunshots.
"At first, we thought they were going into town. Then we realised they had invaded our school. Almost 10 of them came [into the room] with guns and told us to go outside. There were about 200 gunmen. They took us away," the teenage boy told the Sunday Telegraph after his escape.
Exhausted and traumatised, Rayyanu sits alongside several hundred of his schoolmates in Katsina state's government house.
The plush conference hall with deep maroon curtains is a world away from the horrors of the last week.
Kidnappers, thought to be bandits allied to the terrorist group Boko Haram, raided the Kankara Government Science Secondary in northwestern Nigeria with Kalashnikovs, in a chilling echo of the Chibok raid in 2014.
The gunmen rushed hundreds of boys into a nearby forest, and made them walk for days to dodge security forces. It is the biggest abduction in Nigerian history, dwarfing the 276 taken in 2014.
There were 800 boys at the school. No one knows how many were abducted or are still missing, but suddenly and mysteriously on Thursday, 344 of them were released, with Kasina's governor claiming "not a single shot was fired".
The Sunday Telegraph spoke to half a dozen of the boys about their six-day ordeal. They say they were beaten, starved and threatened with death by men with motorbikes and guns.
"Some of us were already deeply asleep [when the gunmen came to the school]. They were shooting in the air. We have suffered a lot," says Auwal, his face expressionless. "We ate once a day. They fed us with five groundnut cookies and sometimes, bread. We drank water from the river in the forest. We had no shoes, so moving around the forest was terrible. We are always at gunpoint.
"They kept threatening to slaughter us. We sleep on the bare floor, our heads in the sand, nothing to cover our bodies from the cold breeze in the forest at night. We saw military aircraft, but when they flew above us, the abductors hid us under the giant trees."
At first, the Kankara kidnapping was blamed on bandits, with the Nigerian presidency claiming that only about 10 boys were with the gunmen.
But when Boko Haram, one of the most egregiously violent jihadist groups, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and said they had 523 boys earlier this week, panic gripped Africa's most populous nation.
Since 2009, the group, whose name means "Western Education is Forbidden", has kidnapped hundreds if not thousands of women and children around the Lake Chad Basin.
In 2014, it took 276 girls from a school in the town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, sparking international outrage and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. After six years of secret negotiations and rescue missions, it is thought that more than 100 of the kidnapped girls are still missing.
Survivors of Boko Haram's bush camps say conditions are beyond words. Earlier this year, children who had escaped the forest camps told how they had been used as sex slaves, forced to stone rule breakers to death or cut their throats and drink their blood.
Hundreds of women and children have been brainwashed or forced into blowing themselves up in crowded market places or at army checkpoints by Boko Haram. Many feared a similar fate would befall the boys if they were not rescued soon. Government officials claim that security forces had cordoned off the area of Rugu forest in Katsina's neighbouring Zamfara state and negotiated with the gunmen until they released the boys. On state television on Thursday, Katsina's governor claimed that no ransom had been paid.
"The truth is we have been tortured. We told [the gunmen] we were tired while walking through the forest, but they threatened us with their rifles," says Ahmad.
"We were told someone was shot, but I didn't see. At some point, we saw motorbikes appeared from the forest, too many to count. They picked the younger ones amongst us.
"We were told to keep walking. We moved for hours till dawn. Some of us ate from the trees like bushmen. I felt really happy when we were released," he adds, smiling.
"I have learnt from this experience, and hope to be a customs officer when I graduate."
Some of the boys have been reunited with their parents. Photos show the raw emotion and joy of mothers and fathers who thought they may never see their sons again. In the coming days, it will become clear how many of the boys are still missing.
There may be more than 100 still in captivity, reckons Bulama Bukarti, a Boko Haram expert at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.