In a surprising turn of events, Boko Haram returned 104 girls to their home in Dapchi, after abducting them on February 19. Initial reports from the freed girls suggest that five girls died during the abduction. Also, one girl, Leah Sherubu, is still being held captive. Apparently, Leah refused to convert to Islam because she is Christian, and so the captors did not release her. The Boko Haram threatened to return if the girls returned to school.
“We did it out of pity. And don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”
A group of 50 Boko Haram men abducted the girls from the Government Science and Technical College. Al-Jazeera reported that the men were likely from a “splinter group aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”
Many wondered if the Nigerian government paid a ransom to buy the girls’ freedom, but the Information Minister Lai Mohammed denied the allegations.
“No money changed hands. They only had one condition — that they will return them to where they took them. So in the early hours of today, they did return the girls and most of them went to their parents.”
Additionally, Mohammed described that the girl’s return required “back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country and it was unconditional.”
A 14-year-old girl, Hauwa Laval, was one of the girls that were abducted. She reported that the Boko Haram was “good to the girls,” gave them food, water, and that they did not touch them. As far as where they were, the girls are guessing somewhere like Niger, although they moved around often.
Unfortunately, 100 of the 276 Chibok girls that Boko Haram abducted four years ago are still missing. Although the group released 176 girls, the rest are still unaccounted for. The Chibok girls were only returned after the Nigerian government paid out millions of dollars of ransoms, detailed the New York Times. The government also conducted prisoner swaps with Boko Haram in exchange for the girls’ freedom. Some speculate that the girls still in captivity could have been forced to marry their captors and even have children with them, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Boko Haram has been around since 2002, and its initial focus was opposing Western education, detailed the BBC. Throughout the years, it has lost much of the land they once controlled to the Nigerian army. The U.S. classified it as a terrorist group in 2013, and the group has been blamed for widespread violence, assassinations, and abductions.
Twitter users expressed their relief, but also want to see all of the girls released from their captors.