101 Nigerian Schoolgirls, Captured by Boko Haram, Were Freed After 1 Month in Captivity
At least one girl remains in captivity.
Just one month after 110 schoolgirls were reportedly captured by Boko Haram militants in the town of Dapchi in northeastern Nigeria, 101 girls were freed Wednesday, Reuters reports. Five were reported dead, while one remains in captivity, according to reports.
Why the girls were returned home is unclear, but government officials indicated that the return was facilitated “back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country,” Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, said.
“I don’t know why they brought us back but they said because we are children of Muslims,” one of the girls, Khadija Grema, told Reuters.
Boko Haram is a jihadist group that officially formed in 2002 in northeastern Nigeria. Its name means "Western education is forbidden" in the local dialect, according to CNN.
The group was catapulted to international notoriety in 2014 after it captured 276 schoolgirls from the region of Chibok, which neighbors Dapchi, and held them hostage for several years. More than 100 of them still remain in captivity.
International observers worried a similar situation might take place with the schoolgirls from Dapchi, who were first reported missing on Feb. 19, after insurgents drove into town in trucks mounted with “heavy guns” and attacked an all-girls boarding school.
Two days later, the Nigerian government reported the majority of the girls had been freed — but this news was later corrected by state governor Ibrahim Gaidam, who said that they had not.
This time, however, multiple reports as well as Reuters photos indicate the girls are no longer in captivity. Militants reportedly drove into Dapchi in a motorcade before promptly leaving, BBC reports.
“No ransom was paid to [the militants] to effect this release,” Mohammed, the information minister, said. “The only condition they gave us is not to release [the girls] to the military but release them in the town of Dapchi without the military presence.”
Although reports of the girls’ return differ, with at least one source who spoke to Reuters claiming the insurgents said nothing to residents, The Telegraph reports that the militants, believed to be part of the Boko Haram terrorist group, warned residents to “[never] put your daughters in school again."
The group is known for waging a war against “Western education.”
Along with the Chibok kidnappings, the group killed 50 teenage students in 2014, some of them burned alive, and has killed over 600 teachers, while displacing nearly 20,000 more, since 2009, according to Human Rights Watch.
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Although the girls’ return was met with “jubilation and shock,” according to the BBC report, the news wasn’t all positive.
“Parents are rejoicing here, but we can see they have suffered," Kachalla Bukar, the secretary of the missing girls' parent's association, which formed after the kidnapping, told CNN.