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World News

Bring Back Our Girls: Nigerian government announces return of 11 kidnapped Christian schoolgirls

by Tola Mbakwe

The Nigerian government has revealed that a further eleven of the Chibok women, who were kidnapped as schoolgirls in 2014 by militant group Boko Haram, have gained their freedom since June.

The women are now staying at an Interim Care Centre in Maiduguri.

According to a government announcement, they were accompanied by at least 21 children they have given birth to while in captivity, due to being impregnated by their kidnappers.

Among those who escaped since June are Mary Dauda, who was found along with her child at Gava in Gwoza, Borno State on 14th June. Ruth Bitrus escaped with her child from Ukuba Boko Haram Terrorist camp in the Sambisa Forest and was rescued in Bama on 27th June.  Meanwhile, Rejoice Senki was rescued with her two children, on unspecified dates.

Senki told Nigerian newspaper The Sun that she was constantly violated while in captivity and was forced to marry one of the fighters who is now the father of her two children.  

She added that she was also forcefully converted to Islam. “If you don’t obey whatever they tell you, they will do whatever they like to you,” she said.

Some of the women told media outlets that they are desperate to return home to their parents and continue their education.

Meanwhile, parents of the Chibok girls who remain in captivity told Arise News Channel the federal government appears to be slacking when it comes to rescuing the rest of the women.

“If the government had told us that our daughters were dead, we would  feel it for a while and forget about the pains. But in a situation where we are not sure, their memories kept coming,” one of the parents said.

Another parent said she kept washing the clothes of her abducted daughters trusting that one day, they would return to put on their dresses.

The Chibok kidnappings took place during on the night of 15th April 2014. Boko Haram violently kidnapped 276 Christian schoolgirls from the Government Girls Secondary School at the town of Chibok in Borno State.

The mass kidnapping initially prompted worldwide outrage, with the slogan #BringBackOurGirls trending on social media and prominent figures including then US first lady Michelle Obama pressing for their return.

Among the abductees was schoolgirl Leah Sharibu, whose case has been widely publicised and has refused to renounce her Christian faith. She is one of an estimated 96 Chibok abductees that remain unaccounted for.

Jo Newhouse, from persecution watchdog Open Doors, said: "The suffering of Boko Haram captives is unimaginable, and so is the agony of the families desperately waiting for any news on their status.

"Open Doors continues to urge the Nigerian President to continue his efforts to liberate all hostages. We also urge the government to create a position for the sole purpose of maintaining an active family liaison and an open channel of communication with the traumatized.”

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