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Abducted Chibok girl reunites with mother

May 18, 2016

One of the teenage girls who escaped Boko Haram militants has finally reunited with her family. She is the first girl to return after the terrorists captured over 200 girls from a northeastern Nigerian school in 2014.

Nigeria Demonstration Bring Back Our Girls in Chibok
Image: Reuters/A. Akinleye

The 19-year-old was found by hunters in the Sambisa forest on Tuesday, the Nigerian military confirmed. The woman, who was found with a baby named Safiya, was taken to her home in the village of Mbalala near Chibok.

A suspected Boko Haram militant was also detained, the military confirmed. According to Chibok's community leader Pogu Bitrus, more girls may have been rescued by Nigerian soldiers. He said he was working with them to establish the young women's identities.

Falmata Mbalala, also known as Amina Ali, told her mother that some of the girls captured by the militants had died in captivity and many others were still being held hostage. "She [Ali] provided useful information that her other classmates are still held under heavy terrorist captivity in the Sambisa Forest area," Sesugh Akume of the Nigerian army said on Wednesday.

A traumatic experience

Ali's uncle told reporters that the victim's father died while she was being held captive and that her mother had tried committing suicide after her daughter was gone. "I had to convince her that she just has to stay alive if she really wants her daughter returned home safe and sound," the girl's family physician, Idriss Dalnadi, said. At least 16 relatives of the girls had died since they went missing, the doctor added.

"They are still with Boko Haram. It is very painful," Nkeki Mutah, uncle of two of the Chibok girls and vice chairman of the Chibok community in Abuja, told DW. "If our government is serious, they will use the information that she might give to pressurize the government to act. But our government is not serious about rescuing the girls," he said.

UN children's fund UNICEF's West and Central Africa spokeswoman Helene Sandbu Ryeng told reporters that Ali's escape and her returning home was only the first step. "Children in this situation typically require social support to help them cope with what they have been through while they were in captivity."

"Many of them need help to reintegrate their family and their community," she said, adding that the community often distrusts such women, who have to additionally deal with stigma and rejection.

Twitter #bringbackourgirls Kampagne Michelle Obama
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign prompted US First Lady Michelle Obama to rally for the cause of Chibok's young womenImage: Twitter

The terrorists' goals

Ali was 17 years old when Boko Haram militants stormed the Government Girls Secondary School at Chibok and captured 276 girls who were studying for their science exams. Over 50 escaped almost immediately after the abduction, but 219 remained in the militants' captivity.

Boko Haram is an Islamist outfit that aims to establish a caliphate based on the Muslim Sharia law. Its terrorists have targeted markets and mosques in northeastern Nigeria, killing hundreds of people in the last couple of years.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to defeat the militants, saying his campaign's success could be measured on the return of the Chibok girls.

mg/bw (AFP, AP)