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Saturday 21 July 2018

Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirl reunited with mother

People march during a protest calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school who were abducted two years ago, in Abuja, Nigeria
People march during a protest calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school who were abducted two years ago, in Abuja, Nigeria

One of the teenage girls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists over two years ago in Nigeria has been found with a baby and reunited with her mother - the first of the Chibok girls to be recovered since the mass abduction.

The 19-year-old, described by an uncle as being traumatised by her experience, was found wandering with her baby on Tuesday on the fringes of the remote Sambisa Forest, which is located near Nigeria's border with Cameroon.

The news gave hope to the families of the 218 girls who are still missing and may provide information as to their whereabouts.

But the young woman told her mother that some of the Chibok girls have died in captivity and the others are still being held, according to her family's doctor Idriss Danladi.

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram stormed and fire-bombed the Government Girls Secondary School at Chibok and seized 276 girls preparing for science exams. Dozens managed to escape in the first hours, but 219 remained captive.

The young woman is the first of those captives to be found since the kidnapping, which grabbed worldwide attention and put a spotlight on the violence of Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremists.

After news of the woman's return emerged, Oby Ezekwesili, one of the founders of the Bring Back Our Girls movement said on social media: "OUR #ChibokGirl ... IS BACK!!!!!!! #218ShallBeBack because #HopeEndures."

There were conflicting accounts about how the young woman was found.

Mr Danladi said the young woman, who was 17 when abducted, was found by hunters and taken with her baby to her home village of Mbalala, near Chibok, to be reunited with her mother.

Her father died while she was in captivity, said her uncle Yakubu Nkeki. All three were then brought to a military camp and arrived under military escort on Wednesday night in Maiduguri, the biggest city in north-east Nigeria.

But Nigeria's military said it had rescued the young woman and her baby, along with a Boko Haram suspect who claimed to be her husband.

"This is to confirm that one of the abducted Chibok school girls... was among the persons rescued by our troops," said army spokesman Col Sani Kukasheka Usman.

Mr Danladi, who is from Chibok and has treated several of the parents, said the young woman's mother attempted suicide some months after her only child was seized.

The mother "suffered a huge traumatic disorder. I had to convince her that she just has to stay alive if she really wants her daughter returned home safe and sound", he said.

The Rev Enoch Mark, whose two daughters are among the missing, said the news brought renewed hope to the parents of the Chibok girls.

"I believe that, by the grace of God, our daughters, some of them, will be found if they are still alive," he said.

At least 16 of the girls' parents have died since the kidnapping, and others have ailments they blame on their ongoing trauma after the abductions.

The inability of Nigeria's government and military to rescue the girls led, in part, to last year's electoral defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan, who was seen as uncaring and not committed to freeing them.

The US, France and Britain offered help to find the girls, sending in drones, hostage negotiators, intelligence officers and others.

A social media campaign using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls reached the White House, where first lady Michelle Obama promised her husband would do all in his power to help.

"Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It's time to #BringBackOurGirls," she tweeted in May 2014.

Returning to ordinary life could be difficult for the victims, according to experts.

"Children in this situation typically require medical assistance and psycho-social support to help them cope with what they have been through while they were in captivity," said Unicef spokeswoman Helene Sandbu Ryeng.

"Our experience with children and women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram and freed by the military or escaped shows that they often face mistrust, stigma and rejection when they return to their communities."

It's not known how many thousands of girls, boys and young women have been kidnapped by Boko Haram in a near seven-year insurgency that has killed some 20,000 people, forced more than two million from their homes and spread across Nigeria's borders.

Press Association

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