Second kidnapped schoolgirl rescued in Nigeria – military


A second girl believed to be among those kidnapped by Islamic extremists from a school in Nigeria has been rescued, the military said.

The girl was rescued on Thursday evening, army spokesman Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said.

Meanwhile aid workers and parents of the girls who were kidnapped from their school in Chibok in 2014, lashed out at the Nigerian government and military over their handling of the first girl to escape the Boko Haram group.

Tuesday’s escape brought joy and renewed hope, but also increased pressure for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue more than 200 other youngsters who were seized in the mass abduction that outraged the world.

On Thursday, Amina Ali Nkeki, who was found nursing her four-month-old baby on the fringes of Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold, was flown to Abuja to meet Mr Buhari.

Ms Ali, 19, was shielded from journalists when she arrived at the presidential villa, with her mother carrying the baby. She was shown into Mr Buhari’s office for a private hour-long meeting and TV cameras and photographers were allowed in briefly afterwards.

A presidential statement said Mr Buhari’s feelings were “tinged with deep sadness at the horrors the young girl has had to go through at such an early stage in her life”.

Boko Haram stormed and firebombed the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote north-eastern town on April 14 2014, after a handful of soldiers ran out of ammunition and fled from about 200 extremists.

The fighters seized 276 girls preparing for science exams. Dozens managed to escape in the first hours. Until Tuesday, 219 remained captive.

Ms Ali revealed to her mother that a few of the girls died in captivity, but most remained under heavy guard in the forest, according to family doctor Idriss Danladi.

“Bring back our girls – now and alive!” about 40 men and women chanted on Thursday evening at a rally of the movement, which has inspired a worldwide social media campaign using the hashtag BringBackOurGirls. They have met faithfully every week at Abuja’s Unity Fountain.

“No more excuses. And no failure is acceptable,” Oby Ezekwesili, a founder of the movement, told the gathering. “We can rescue our Chibok girls. What happened with one can happen with 218.”

The former World Bank vice president and Nigerian education minister helped start the group after former president Goodluck Jonathan initially denied there had ever been a mass kidnapping. His wife claimed it was a ruse to make her husband look bad.

Mr Jonathan lost elections last year, in part because he was seen as not caring about the Chibok girls and not committed to rescuing them.

Ms Ezekwesili criticised Mr Buhari for admitting he had not seen a proof-of-life video that Boko Haram sent to the government months ago in a bid to open negotiations to exchange the Chibok girls for detained Boko Haram leaders – the first indication in two years that some of the girls are alive.

“We urged our government to take the proof-of-life video seriously,” she told the rally. “But you know that our president did not watch that video.”

But she added: “God is very good. He gave us a miracle, a young woman who was in the enclave of the terrorists with the best bed of information that anybody can have.”

She called on Mr Buhari to mobilise countries such as the United States, France and Britain in a reinvigorated effort to find the girls. Those countries sent drones, hostage negotiators, intelligence officers and others after the kidnapping, to no avail.

Chibok parents were outraged that the military had “paraded” the young woman beside the Boko Haram commander who took her as his wife, Ms Ezekwesili said.

Ms Ali has told her mother that the man, Mohammed Hayatu, rescued her, deserting Boko Haram and leading her out of the forest because the camp had run out of food and they feared their baby would starve to death, according to Dr Danladi. The military said Hayatu had been detained for interrogation.

Mr Buhari’s government also was lambasted by Washington-based Refugees International, which said Ms Ali should be getting immediate care for rape and psychological counselling, instead of making public appearances.

“It is an outrage,” said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, the women and girls’ advocate at Refugees International, saying the escapee’s case should not be politicised.

Mr Buhari’s statement said medical personnel and trauma experts had examined Ms Ali on Wednesday for five hours. The president promised that she would get the best medical care and education available.

He repeated promises his administration would do all it could to bring the girls home.

Nigerian hunters found Ms Ali wandering on the fringes of the remote north-eastern Sambisa Forest and reunited her with her mother, Dr Danladi said.

The military claimed it had rescued the young woman, though its initial statement identified the escapee as another Chibok girl who is still missing.

Authorities will be asking her where her classmates are being held. If Boko Haram tries to move large groups of girls because of her escape, those movements can be captured by satellites and air reconnaissance.

Aid groups also claimed that thousands of other rescued or escaped Boko Haram hostages had been further abused by the military, which detains many.

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