More than half of Chibok schoolgirls now free but 113 still missing

By Diana Chandler
Baptist Press

A group of 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed after more than three years of Boko Haram captivity met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari May 7 in Abuja, a day after their release in a prisoner swap.

Nigeria released five Boko Haram terrorists from prison in exchange for the girls, a government official told the Associated Press May 7 on condition of anonymity. But the Nigerian government did not officially disclose the number of terrorists released in the May 6 exchange.

An estimated 113 of the girls from the majority Christian town in northeastern Nigeria remain missing, their health and whereabouts uncertain.

“After lengthy negotiations our security agencies have taken back these girls, in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities,” Buhari media representative Garba Shehu said in a May 6 press release.

The swap marked the largest number of Chibok schoolgirls released since Boko Haram kidnapped a total of 276 of them from a government boarding school in April, 2014. About 60 of the girls managed to escape on the night of their capture or in the ensuing years; Nigeria secured the release of 21 others in October 2016. Buhari pledged to continue working for the remaining girls’ freedom.

Boko Haram is suspected of having hidden the girls deep in the Sambisa forest for much of their captivity and had threatened to enslave the girls as wives of the radical Muslim fighters.

While the girls’ kidnapping gained international attention, the International Christian Concern counts them among more than 2,000 boys and girls Boko Haram has abducted for use as suicide bombers, fighters, wives or cooks.

Boko Haram has killed between 20,000 and 25,000 people since 2009, according to official estimates, and has displaced about 2.6 million others, creating a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in the region that has been termed the gravest in the world.

Editor’s Note — This article is an excerpt from the full article by Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.