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Plans underway to secure Leah Sharibu's release, says Nigerian government

by Kelly Valencia
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The Nigerian government has revealed efforts are underway to secure the release of Leah Sharibu. 

The Christian teenager was one of 110 girls abducted in 2018 by the Nigerian faction of terror group Boko Haram group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

While her surviving classmates were returned a month later following negotiations, Sharibu was denied her freedom for refusing to convert to Islam as a precondition for her release.

She has been declared a "slave for life" by ISWAP and has remained in captivity since. 

Speaking to Nigerian Television Authority, the chief of defence staff, General Lucky Irabor revealed that "plans and processes" are in place to secure the release of "not just Leah Sharibu but every other person held captive is released."

"I would like to reassure Nigerians and the world at large that the Federal Government, using the military, is working very hard to ensure that everyone that has been held captive regains their freedom," he added. 

He also confirmed the armed groups operating in the country's northwest are now described as terrorists.

Reacting to the announcement, Dr Kathaza Gondwe, advocacy director for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), told Premier action to free the Christian teenager is long overdue. 

"It's belated news as the president of Nigeria has been promising Leah's parents since 2018 that they would, he would, work quickly to ensure her release. But it's a welcomed development."

Dr Gondwe went on to say "we can only pray" the government will honour this commitment. CSW believes categorising ISWAP as terrorists will help in how they armed forces deals with them. 

"The groups that are holding them captive have not really been adequately addressed," Dr Gondwe said. "So if having designated them as terrorists [means] the rules of engagement with them change, hopefully, we'll see some kind of progress to securing the lives of Nigerians citizens."

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