A girl who was kidnapped by Boko Haram with 276 others in Chibok has been found in Nigeria’s Sambisa forest after two years in captivity.
The girl, identified by the BBC as Amina Ali Nkek, was 17 when she was taken and is now 19. The girl was found with a baby and said that she had been kidnapped by the group and had escaped.
Her escape comes amid reports that the army conducted a large-scale operation against the group on Tuesday, the same day the girl was found, NBC News added.
Amina was spotted on the edge of the jungle in the northeastern part of the country, close to the border with Cameroon; according to CNN, authorities there have long suspected that the Chibok girls were being held in that area.
She was found by a fighter with vigilante group called the Civilian Joint Task Force, who were set up to help fight the militants. The vigilantes were apparently in the forest searching for firewood when the fighter came upon Amina and recognized her as one of the Chibok girls.
— Nigeria Newsdesk (@NigeriaNewsdesk) May 18, 2016
She was taken to her mother, who confirmed her identity; residents in her hometown also believe “100 percent” that “this was one of the Chibok girls,” said activist Bukky Shonibare. Her uncle, Yakubu Nkeki, confirmed the reunion between mother and daughter. She’ll soon move to the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, Maiduguri.
Amina is from the town of Mbalala, according to sources. The town is south of Chibok, where 25 of the kidnapped girls were from.
The campaign against the Islamist terrorists, reported to have taken place the same day the Chibok girl was found, resulted in the deaths of 15 Boko Haram fighters, who were fired upon heavily in Alafa. Troops reportedly rescued 41 hostages as well, including many women and children.
— HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) May 18, 2016
About 218 girls are still missing after their abduction from a secondary school in northeast Nigeria in April, 2014.
Armed Boko Haram militants infiltrated the girls’ boarding school dormitories late at night and kidnapped 276 — most of them Christian — and loaded them onto trucks. At least 57 managed to escape soon after they were taken, most by jumping off the trucks and running into the bushes.
The rest have never been found.
Two years ago, parents told CNN how they followed their daughters’ trail into the Sambisa forest, which had been controlled by the Islamist militants for several years. The dense jungle proved an excellent hiding place for the group, which planted IEDs amid the vegetation and made the area dangerous to traverse.
Nigerian soldiers have infiltrated the forest since and driven back Boko Haram, but they still hold tight to territory in the heart of the forest. The government’s failure to find and rescue the kidnapped teens has drawn criticism.
— FRANCE 24 (@FRANCE24) May 18, 2016
Following the mass abduction of the school girls, an international outcry began and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign was launched and backed by First Lady Michelle Obama, among others; meanwhile, the U.S. and other countries sent military assistance.
The world has had fleeting sight of some of the Chibok girls since their abduction. In May, 2014, Boko Haram released a video of 130 of the youth reciting the Koran. In April this year, 15 of the girls were seen in a video reportedly taken at the end of 2015; some of them were identified by their parents. They claimed to be treated well, but said they wanted to go home.
The militant group has joined ISIS and has fashioned itself the terror organization’s “West African province.” They were founded in 2002 and at first focused their energies on opposing Western-style education.
[Photo By Alastair Grant / AP]