The Nigerian government has confirmed Boko Haram terrorist group returned 101 of the Dapchi schoolgirls. 110 girls were kidnapped from Dapchi Government Girls Science Technical College, just over a month ago in Yobe, northeast Nigeria.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed earlier said 96 girls were released. Later he updated journalists that 101 girls have been released, adding that the girls were released unconditionally. “No money changed hands. As of now, the number (of girls confirmed to have been released) has increased to 101,” he said.
One of the returned girls, Aisha Alhaji Deri, 16, told reporters they were not mistreated during their time in captivity. But she added “When we were being taken away, five of us died on the way. They brought us back this morning, dropped us outside the motor park and said we should all go home and not go to the military because they will claim to have rescued us.”
Another returnee, Fatima Gremah, 13, told reporters “Boko Haram said we were lucky we were young and also Muslims. One of us who is a Christian has been left behind. They said they would keep her until she converts. If she converts, they will release her. She is the only one among us left behind.”
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said last week the government had “chosen negotiation” to secure the return of the Dapchi girls rather than use military force. Meanwhile, Information Minister said their release was the result of “back-channel efforts” with the help of “some friends of the country.”
He added that military operations in and around Dapchi had been suspended “to ensure free passage” of the girls and also to ensure “that lives were not lost.”
Meanwhile, presidency said the girls are in the custody of the country’s intelligence agency, the Department of State Services.
Fatima Gremah, 16, indicated they were held on an island on Lake Chad, which is a known stronghold for fighters loyal to Boko Haram factional leader Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi.
“They just told us on Saturday to get onto boats. We spent three days on the water before coming to shore, then they put us in vehicles and said they were taking us back home.”
Parents earlier told AFP the girls were brought back to Dapchi in nine vehicles at about 8:00 am. Some of the students headed to their homes in surrounding villages.
Bashir Manzo, who heads a parents’ support group in Dapchi, said: “These girls were not accompanied by any security personnel. Their abductors brought them, dropped them outside the school and left, without talking to anyone.”
Parents in the remote town said the girls had been taken for medical check-ups after their ordeal.