Chi­bok girls swapped for de­tainees, ran­som or both?

Hand­some ran­som’ paid by Swiss

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Con­flict­ing re­ports emerged yes­ter­day about whether the first ne­go­ti­ated re­lease of some Chi­bok school­girls kid­napped by Boko Haram in Nige­ria in 2014 in­volved a ran­som pay­ment, a pris­oner swap for Is­lamic ex­trem­ist com­man­ders, or both. A Nige­rian hostage ne­go­tia­tor who was not in­volved in Thurs­day’s re­lease told AP a “hand­some ran­som” in the mil­lions of dol­lars was paid by Switzer­land’s gov­ern­ment on be­half of Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties. He said the Swiss would re­coup the money from some $321 mil­lion it had said it would repa­tri­ate to Nige­ria this year from frozen funds looted un­der for­mer mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor Sani Abacha.

Swiss of­fi­cials con­firmed Thurs­day that they had played a neu­tral, hu­man­i­tar­ian role in the op­er­a­tion. And the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross con­firmed that it had re­ceived 21 Chi­bok girls from Boko Haram and handed them over to Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties. But Swiss of­fi­cials said no ran­som had been paid. “Switzer­land never pays ran­soms in cases of hostage-tak­ings,” Jean-Marc Crevoisier, a spokesman for the Swiss For­eign Min­istry, said in an e-mail.

“The resti­tu­tion of the Abacha funds ($321 mil­lion) has no con­nec­tion to the lib­er­a­tion of the young girls,” Crevoisier said. The resti­tu­tion of those funds is still be­ing worked out and will be car­ried out through a pro­gram mon­i­tored by the World Bank, he said. Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties have said ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue for the re­lease of the re­main­ing 197 miss­ing girls, though at least half a dozen are re­ported to have died of ill­nesses.

Swap

Two mil­i­tary of­fi­cers told the AP the 21 girls were swapped for four de­tained Boko Haram lead­ers. The hostage ne­go­tia­tor and of­fi­cers spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly. Nige­rian of­fi­cials deny any swap. Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo said “there was no ex­change of any kind ... No such thing took place.” He did not men­tion a ran­som. Some par­ents of the freed girls yes­ter­day were mak­ing their way to Abuja, the cap­i­tal, where the girls were flown Thurs­day, to be re­united with their daugh­ters. At least 23 par­ents of the kid­napped girls have died since their ab­duc­tion, some from stress-re­lated ill­nesses and oth­ers in Boko Haram at­tacks.

More than 20,000 peo­ple have died and 2.6 mil­lion have been driven from their homes in Boko Haram’s seven-year in­sur­gency aimed at cre­at­ing an Is­lamic state across the West African oil pro­ducer, whose 170 mil­lion peo­ple are di­vided al­most equally be­tween Mus­lims in the north and Chris­tians in the south.

The first ne­go­ti­ated re­lease of Chi­bok school­girls comes af­ter three failed at­tempts over sev­eral months broke down as ex­trem­ist leader Abubakar Shekau kept chang­ing his de­mands, ac­cord­ing to In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Lai Mo­hammed. Ne­go­ti­a­tions last year failed when Boko Haram de­manded a ran­som of $5.2 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cently pub­lished au­tho­rized bi­og­ra­phy of Nige­rian Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari by Amer­i­can his­to­rian John Paden.

Daily Trust, the most widely read news­pa­per in north­ern Nige­ria, has re­ported a ran­som was paid for the 21 Chi­bok girls be­cause none of the de­tained Boko Haram com­man­ders wanted to be re­leased, fear­ing for their lives amid a lead­er­ship strug­gle in the ex­trem­ist group. The girls are from a Chris­tian en­clave in the pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim northeast. Many of their par­ents are in­volved in trans­lat­ing the Bi­ble into lo­cal lan­guages and be­long to the Nige­rian branch of the El­gin, Illi­nois­based Church of the Brethren. — AP

— AP

ABUJA: A news­pa­per ven­dor sells news­pa­pers re­port­ing on the re­lease of some of the Chi­bok school­girls yes­ter­day.

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