Nigerian military officials have rescued 200 girls and 94 women from Boko Haram this week, but the rescued hostages are not the same ones who had been kidnapped from Chibok last year and were the subject of the infamous #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
“Troops have captured & destroyed three camps of terrorists inside the Sambisa forest & rescued 200 girls & 93 women,” defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a text message, referring to the area in northeast Borno state where the Islamists have bases.
Following news of the rescue, Colonel Sani Usman sought to clarify that the rescued hostages were not the same group of girls whose plight unchained the #BringBackOurGirls global campaign.
“They were not, however, from Chibok, the village from which more than 200 girls were abducted in April 2014,” he told Reuters in a text message.
Boko Haram claimed the abduction of 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, also in Borno, on April 14 last year. Fifty-seven girls escaped within hours of the attack but 219 remained in captivity. At the anniversary of their abduction, Nigeria’s president-elect Muhammadu Buhari admitted it may never be possible to find the group.
One source says that officials will conduct screenings with the freed hostages to determine where they are from and whether they have been married to Boko Haram men or made slaves to the group.
“Now they are excited about their freedom,” he said. “Tomorrow there will be screenings to determine whether they are Boko Haram wives, whether they are from Chibok, how long they have been in the camps, and if they have children.”
Some of the girls were injured, and some of the militants killed, he said without giving more details.
The group was rescued from camps “discovered near or on the way to Sambisa,” one army official said.
Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded the vast former colonial game reserve late last week as part of a push to win back territory from Boko Haram.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Miro Novak