Last month, Boko Haram took 110 schoolgirls hostage in Nigeria and almost all of them have been released in Dapchi, Nigeria, the town from which they were taken. Boko Haram was seen driving truckloads of the girls back into town and letting them go.
Reports of the exact numbers are still coming in and discrepancies appear across the board. A statement from the personal assistant of the Nigerian President claimed that 106 of 110 abducted persons were released, including another boy and girl later on. It is not indicated how the boy was involved in the first place.
Other reports say that a Christian girl is still held hostage and that five others were killed during the initial abductions. The most dangerous part of any captivity is during the initial, violent kidnapping. Reports indicate that this is when the five were killed; one of the returned girls said the deceased were crushed when the 110 were forced into vehicles.
No ransoms were reported to have been paid; no concessions were granted. Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, said that “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country and it was unconditional.” The minister also said that,
For the release to work, the government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option.
“Within the period when the girls were being brought back, operational pause was observed in certain areas to ensure free passage and also that lives were not lost.”
On 19 February, Boko Haram entered Dapchi, specifically targeting the Government Girls Science and Technical College. Pretending to be soldiers, they ushered the girls into vehicles and left immediately.
Amnesty International launched an investigation into the matter. They claimed that five phone calls had been made in advance that day, warning authorities of incoming Boko Haram personnel. Still, the military made no efforts to prevent the attack, intercept the kidnappers, or even evacuate the area. Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director, said that, “The Nigerian authorities must investigate the inexcusable security lapses that allowed this abduction to take place without any tangible attempt to prevent it.”
The investigation echoed a previous such raid by Boko Haram, in 2014, and the government’s failure to learn from the past. Back then, Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from a boarding school — 57 of them would escape over the initial months, and several releases have occurred over the years. 82 of them were freed in May, 2017.
This is all a part of a concerted effort by Boko Haram to prevent westernized education from permeating Nigeria. They claim that it prevents fundamental Islamic principles from taking hold, and they have often used violence to enforce these standards. In 2015, they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), and they have killed thousands upon thousands of people, forcing well over 2 million to flee from their homes. Falling in line with this recent kidnapping, they are also known to kidnap children and women, forcing them to wear suicide vests and approach enemy targets, detonating once in range. Dapchi locals likely feared this fate, among many others, for their recently kidnapped girls.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.