Boko Haram returns Nigeria girls, warns not to put in school
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram Islamic extremists brought back nearly all of the 110 girls they had kidnapped from a boarding school last month, dropping them off in the middle of the night today with a warning: "Don't ever put your daughters in school again."
Several of the girls interviewed by The Associated Press said they had been traveling for days before the convoy of vehicles arrived in the center of the town of Dapchi about 2 a.m. Residents who had fled upon hearing that Boko Haram was headed their way watched from hiding as dozens of girls descended from the vehicles apparently unharmed.
"We were freed because we are Muslim girls and they didn't want us to suffer. That is why they released us," said Khadija Grema, one of the freed girls who said a Christian classmate remained captive.
The extraordinary development brought elation to most of the families, but more heartache for the relatives of the nine girls still unaccounted for. The sister of one of the girls still being held captive fainted today upon hearing news that she was not among those freed.
One 14-year-old released by the fighters told reporters that five girls had died. She did not provide other details and it was not immediately possible to independently verify her claim.
The abductions in Dapchi have evoked painful memories of the tragedy in Chibok, where 276 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school. Nearly four years later, about 100 of them have never returned home. Many had been forced to marry their captors and had children fathered by them.
The Nigerian government denied it had paid a ransom in exchange for the girls' freedom. The girls were released "through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country, and it was unconditional," Information Minister Lai Mohammed told journalists in the capital of Abuja.
"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," he said.