YAOUNDE - Officials from the Cameroon government and Chinese embassy say 27 hostages, including 10 Chinese workers freed by suspected Boko Haram militants, have now spent two days with their families after several months in captivity.
Crowds of people turned out at Kolofata in northern Cameroon when word came that their leader, cleric and mayor Seini Boukar, along with the wife of Cameroon's Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali and 15 others kidnapped from the village had been freed.
The cleric's brother, Ahmidou Boukar, told VOA that life was at a standstill in Kolofata since the 17 were taken by Boko Haram fighters.
He says now that their leader is free, he is sure that children will go back to school and that teachers will teach, adding that he is very optimistic that their leader will settle an electricity bill so that their village can again have lights.
Kolofata resident Abba Souleymano says he is very thankful to God for bringing back all the 27 hostages safe after nearly three months in captivity.
He says all of the village residents were praying for the release of their cleric and the hostages and that they are grateful to President Paul Biya who negotiated their release.
The villagers were captured during two July 27 attacks around Kolofata that left 15 dead.
Former hostage Abdouraman Seini, who survived a gunshot to his hand, told VOA he and the other captives were forced to eat whatever was provided and at times went for days without water to drink.
He says they lived in miserable conditions and that they were tortured by men armed with knives and guns. Freedom is a good thing, he says, adding that he prays such a thing never happens to anyone.
Abdouraman Seini adds that he did not see any of the more than 200 girls from Chibok, Nigeria that Boko Haram claimed responsibility for kidnapping in April.
He says women are separated from men in the various detention camps run by the militants in the bush.
Abdouraman Seini told VOA he believes it is very likely Boko Haram fighters will continue their attacks because they are running out of food for the hundreds of fighters and the hundreds of captives they have.
Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the 27 hostages, including the 10 Chinese workers, were handed over to Cameroonian soldiers in Kolofata, near the border with Nigeria and they were then transported to the capital, Yaounde, where some of them are receiving treatment at a hospital.