Boko Haram returns kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls
The latest mass abduction is thought to have been carried out by a Boko Haram splinter group aligned with Islamic State.
Boko Haram extremists have returned almost all of the 110 girls abducted from their Nigerian boarding school a month ago with an ominous warning, witnesses said.
The fighters rolled into Dapchi at around 2am local time in nine vehicles and the girls were left in the centre of town.
As terrified residents emerged from their homes, the extremists said “this is a warning to you all”, resident Ba’ana Musa told the Associated Press.
Ministers of Information and Defence have just briefed the press ahead of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting.— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) March 21, 2018
The released Girls are in Dapchi and being documented; Situation is developing; release is outcome of “backchannel” negotiations; no ransoms were paid. pic.twitter.com/wajHHCaGUd
“We did it out of pity. And don’t ever put your daughters in school again,” the extremists said.
Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language.
Nigeria’s government said 101 of the 110 schoolgirls had been confirmed freed and that the number “would be updated after the remaining ones have been documented”.
“No ransoms were paid,” information minister Lai Mohammed said in a statement.
The girls were released “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country, and it was unconditional”.
Family members travelled to the town on Wednesday morning.
“When I get there we will do a headcount to see if all of them have been released,” said Bashir Manzo, whose 16-year-old daughter was among those kidnapped during the February 19 attack.
Mr Manzo confirmed that his daughter was among those freed.
“As I speak to you there is jubilation in Dapchi,” he said.
The mass abduction and the government response brought back painful memories of the 2014 attack on a boarding school in Chibok.
Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls, and about 100 of them have never returned.
Some girls were forced to marry their captors, and many had children fathered by the militants.
The latest mass abduction is thought to have been carried out by a Boko Haram splinter group aligned with Islamic State, one that has criticised the leader of the main Boko Haram organisation for targeting civilians and has focused instead on military and Western targets.
Residents in Dapchi fled on Wednesday morning upon hearing that Boko Haram vehicles were heading towards the town.
“We fled but, from our hiding, we could see them and surprisingly, we saw our girls getting out of the vehicles,” Umar Hassan told the AP.
“They assembled the girls and talked to them for some few minutes and left without any confrontation,” said another resident, Kachallah Musa.
The girls were at hospital in Dapchi “and the counsellors are there with them”, the information minister told reporters.
GREAT NEWS from Dapchi, Yobe State. Thank God for the safe return of our sisters. Alhamdulillah!— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) March 21, 2018
As with the released Chibok schoolgirls, “they will be quarantined and be counselled before they go back to their schools”.
Their release came a day after an Amnesty International report accused the Nigerian military of failing to heed several warnings of the imminent attack last month.
The military has called the report an “outright falsehood”.
Nigeria’s government celebrated the girls’ release.
“GREAT NEWS from Dapchi, Yobe State. Thank God for the safe return of our sisters. Alhamdulillah!” an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Ahmad, said on Twitter.