As their Boko Haram captors left to attack a police outpost in the Nigerian town of Damboa Saturday, more than 60 women and girls kidnapped by the extreme Islamist terror group last month fled to freedom, making their escape as the guards left behind to watch them took a nap, media outlets in the region reported Sunday.
The escape was first reported in the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times, which quoted Abbas Gava, the leader of a local vigilante militia in the largely lawless Borno State in northeast Nigeria, a remote area where Boko Haram has established its base of operations. This is the area where Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency, due to the alarmingly frequent kidnappings, bombings and paramilitary attacks carried out by Boko Haram there.
“I have just received an alert from my colleagues in Damboa area that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home. They took the bold step when their abductors moved out to carry out an operation,” Gava told the Nigerian paper. “We don’t have the details of their escape yet, but we believe God gave them the opportunity at the time the insurgents came in their large numbers to attack Damboa where about 12 soldiers, five policemen, over 50 Boko Haram members and unspecified number of civilians were killed.”
Nigerian authorities said they killed more than 50 Boko Haram fighters in the attack Saturday.
A top local security officer confirmed the report to Premium News.
“There is no doubt about your report. The women and girls were able to escape,” the officer, who declined to be identified by name, told the news outlet. “I guess it was during the time the gunmen were attacking Damboa, left behind just some few men to watch over the women, but the women took advantage of an opportunity when the guys were dozing off, and bolted away quietly.”
In the abduction, staged June 23 in the Damboa district town of Kummabza, Boko Haram seized 68 women and girls, some as young as three years old. Five of the abductees are believed to remain in captivity somewhere in Borno State.
More than 200 young schoolgirls abducted back in April by Boko Haram remain captives of the ultra-radical group, which allegedly aims to create an Islamic state in Nigeria. The kidnapping of those girls led to the international #BringBackOurGirls social media effort and has drawn the attention of numerous celebrities.
But the Kummabza Boko Haram kidnappings drew far less worldwide attention. The militants hoped to exchange the kidnapped women and girls for their own fighters currently imprisoned by the Nigerian government.
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