Nigeria faces mounting pressure to rescue girls abducted by Boko Haram 1,000 days ago

police disrupt Bring Back Our Girls rally in Nigeria

By Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Kieran Guilbert

CHIBOK, Nigeria/DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nigeria is facing mounting pressure to find some 200 schoolgirls abducted 1,000 days ago in Boko Haram’s most infamous attack after the rescue of 24 girls raised hopes that they are alive.

For more than two years there was no sign of the girls who were kidnapped by the Islamist fighters from a school in Chibok in northeast Nigeria one night in April 2014, sparking global outrage and a celebrity-backed campaign #bringbackourgirls.

But the discovery of one of the girls with a baby last May fueled hopes for their safety, with a further two girls found in later months and a group of 21 released in October in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross..

For parents like Rebecca Joseph the return home of the group of 21 girls at Christmas was a bitter-sweet celebration.

Her daughter, Elizabeth, is one of an estimated 195 girls still held captive by the jihadist group, which has tried to force some of them to convert to Islam and to marry their captors.

“I am happy that some of the girls are returning home even though my own daughter is not among them,” Joseph told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the town of Chibok in Borno state.

“My prayer is that my daughter and the rest of the girls will be rescued and returned to their families safe.”

With last weekend marking 1,000 days since the girls were abducted, President Muhammadu Buhari said he remained committed to ensuring the abducted schoolgirls are reunited with their families “as soon as practicable”.

“We are hopeful that many more will still return,” said Buhari, who came to power in 2015 and replaced a government criticized for not doing enough to find the missing girls.

“The tears never dry, the ache is in our hearts,” he said in a statement.

STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

The Nigerian government said last month that it was involved in negotiations aimed at securing the release of some of the girls as the army captured a key Boko Haram camp, the militant group’s last enclave in the vast Sambisa forest.

The exact number of Chibok girls still in captivity is believed to be 195 but it has been hard to pin down an exact number since the girls went missing.

Academics and security experts say it may be a huge challenge to obtain the girls’ freedom given the significance of the abduction for Boko Haram, which has killed about 15,000 people in its seven-year insurgency to set up an Islamic state.

“Outside Nigeria, the Chibok girls have come to symbolize the Boko Haram conflict,” said Sola Tayo, an associate fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House.

“The global outrage generated by their captivity has added to their value to the insurgents,” she added, adding that they were also significant to Buhari because he made their release a key campaign pledge before his 2015 election.

The government said in October that it had not swapped Boko Haram fighters or paid a ransom for the release of the 21 girls but several security analysts said it was implausible that the Islamist group would have let the girls go for nothing.

“To secure the release of the remaining girls would require concessions by the Nigerian government, which could reverse significant gains it has made against Boko Haram,” said Ryan Cummings, director of risk management consultancy Signal Risk.

“In addition to detainees, Boko Haram may also demand supplies, weapons, vehicles and even money which they could use to recalibrate and invigorate their armed campaign against the Nigerian state.”

DEEP DIVISIONS

One of the major obstacles to securing the release of all of the Chibok girls who remain in captivity is the deep divisions emerging within Boko Haram, said Freedom Onuoha, a security analyst and lecturer at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.

The militants split last year with one faction moving away from the group’s established figurehead Abubakar Shekau over his failure to adhere to guidance from Islamic State to which Boko Haram pledged allegiance in 2015.

It is unclear how many Chibok girls are held by the main faction led by Shekau, thought to be based in the Sambisa, and by the Islamic State-allied splinter group – headed by Abu Musab al-Barnawi and believed to operate in the Lake Chad area.

“It will be difficult to release most of the remaining girls as each faction will maintain a strong hold on them and would negotiate with state officials on their own terms,” said Onuoha.

While the deal to free the 21 girls was seen as a huge boost for the government’s assertions that it would soon bring home the others, a lack of progress since then has seen public hopes dwindle and frustrations arise, academics said.

Although Nigeria has driven Boko Haram out of most of the territory it held, its battle against the militants will not be considered over until the fate of all of the Chibok girls is made clear, said Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group.

“From various indications, it is most unlikely that all the remaining girls will come home alive, but the government owes their parents and the public the fundamental responsibility of accounting for every one of them,” the Nigeria analyst said.

“In the long run, that’s the only way to bring closure to this sad episode.”

(Reporting by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Nigerian soldiers find Chibok girl kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014

Bring Back Our Girls campaigners

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Nigerian soldiers have found a schoolgirl who was one of more than 200 pupils kidnapped by Islamist militant group Boko Haram from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014, an army spokesman said on Thursday.

The troops had found Rakiya Abubkar wandering around near Algarno, a former Boko Haram stronghold, the spokesman said. She had a six-month-old baby with her.

A total of 276 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok in 2014 in one of the most infamous actions of their insurgency. More than 20 were released in October in a deal brokered by the International Red Cross. Others have escaped or been rescued but about 200 are believed to be still in captivity.

Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than two million during a seven-year-old insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria.

The group controlled an area about the size of Belgium in early 2015 but has been pushed out of most of that territory over the last year by Nigeria’s army and troops from neighbouring countries.

Last month, the army said it had seized a key Boko Haram camp in its last enclave in Nigeria in the vast Sambisa forest. The jihadists still stage suicide bombings in northeastern areas and in neighbouring Niger and Cameroon.

(Reporting by Lanre Ola, Alexis Akwagyiram and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Dominic Evans)

Nigeria Army Rescues 234 More Female Captives

The Nigerian Army’s successes against the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram continued this weekend with the rescue of more captured women.

Military officials say that 234 more women and girls were taken from a Boko Haram stronghold in the Sambia Forest.  The total number of women and children rescued in the last week from the terrorists reached 527.

The girls and women are being given counseling to help them with the brainwashing attempts of the terrorists.  Some of the women actually fired on the troops, leading officials to say that after forced marriages and long captivity, some of the women have been successfully convinced they are part of the terror network.

The military was unable to say if any of the captives were part of the 200 schoolgirls taken from Chibok that led to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.   The leader of Boko Haram had said those girls would be sold to other members of Boko Haram.

“I abducted your girls,” Shekau said in a 57-minute video earlier. “I abducted a girl at a western education school and you are disturbed. I said western education should end. Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married. I will repeat this: western education should fold up. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine.”

Nigerian Army Rescues Almost 300 From Boko Haram

The Nigerian army scored a major victory in their battle with Boko Haram, saving 293 women and girls from a Boko Haram camp.

The total included 200 girls although they were not the same girls kidnapped from Chibok last year that lead to the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

The raid in the Sambia Forest is the latest in a series of military movements in that region where Boko Haram had maintained a stronghold in their campaign against the government.  The region is not far from Chibok, which had initially led to hopes the girls were from the Chibok kidnapping.

The terrorists announced they are changing their name to Islamic State’s West Africa Province after aligning their group with the terrorist group ISIS.

A security officer to the governor of Borno State, where the raided area is located, said that unless the military focuses on taking out the leader of Boko Haram, the kidnapping of women is going to continue.

“How could they rescue over 200 women without getting Shekau or the top B. H. commanders?” Hussaini Monguno asked of the New York Times. “How many were killed? Without clear explanation, people will always believe they just want to cover up.”

Boko Haram Kidnaps 60 Women

Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has committed another kidnapping of women in Nigeria.

The group kidnapped 60 more girls despite reports they were agreeing to a ceasefire and the release of the last 200 girls still remaining from a raid on a school in Chibok in April.

“The insurgents are still in the area. They slit the throats of three men in Garta and abducted many young women. We also heard from residents of Waga that they killed two men and took 40 women away,” said Tizhe Kwada, a resident of Garta.

The Nigerian government had claimed a cease fire with the group was reached last week.

The BBC reported now Boko Haram is claiming there is no ceasefire and that talks between the extremists and the government will be continuing in neighboring Chad.

“If they are aware and they are in agreement that there is a ceasefire, I don’t think they would continue attacking innocent people and taking over places,” said Bulama Mali Gubio of the Borno Elders Forum.

Boko Haram Leader Mocks #BringBackOurGirls Hashtag Campaign

The head of the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has released a video where he mocks the western-oriented campaign called “Bring Back Our Girls” that uses a hashtag on Twitter calling for the release of girls kidnapped by the group.

The new video features the leader gathering his troops together and then chanting “Bring Back Our Army”, a reference to their demands that the government release captured terrorists in return for the release of the captured girls.

The leader also screamed “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill Christians!” throughout the video.

The Christian Post reported yesterday that 219 of 276 kidnapped from a public school in April are still being held by the terrorists.

Nigerian military officials say they know the location of the 219 remaining girls but have still been unable to find a way to safely move in and rescue them.

Nigerian Teachers Strike, Rally For Kidnapped Girls

The unrest among the Nigerian people regarding the government’s inability to rescue 300 kidnapped girls from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is starting to have nationwide impact.

The National Union of Teachers announced their members will not show up to teach as a general strike against the government’s failure to rescue the Christian girls kidnapped from a school April 14th.

“All schools nationwide shall be closed as the day will be our day of protest against the abduction of the Chibok female students and the heartless murder of the 173 teachers,” Union President Michael Olukoya told reporters.

The teachers say that the kidnapping of the girls and the government’s apparent weakness in stopping the Islamic terror attacks on Christians puts all youth in the country in danger.

“Children’s lives are being threatened, kidnapping all over the place, stealing, maiming of life, that’s what we are saying should stop,” said teacher Ojo Veronica.

Nigerian citizens in the northern part of the country have now reportedly begin taking up arms and forming militias for the sole purpose of seeking the kidnapped girls.  One group attacked a Boko Haram encampment and killed 10 terrorists.