Nigeria tries to ID nearly 300 rescued women, girls
Nigeria was on Wednesday seeking to identify nearly 300 women and girls rescued from Boko Haram, raising hopes they may include schoolgirls seized in a high-profile kidnapping last year.
The army appeared to rule out any of the 200 girls being from the northeastern town of Chibok, who were snatched from their dormitories on April 14, prompting global outrage.
But the country’s defence spokesman urged caution, saying it was too early to tell and all those released from camps in the militants’ Sambisa Forest stronghold were still being screened.
Chibok elders reacted angrily to the latest announcement, which comes after the military previously said some of the girls had been released, only to backtrack, and that it knew where they were.
“It is disheartening for our hopes to be dashed,” said Enoch Mark, whose daughter and niece are among the 219 teenagers still being held by the Islamists.
Pogo Bitrus, whose four nieces are hostages, added: “We have never lost hope as a people but the issue is, if the military has the capacity (to rescue hostages) now, why didnt they do it before?
Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade announced on Tuesday evening that troops rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the former colonial-era game re- serve in northeastern Borno state.
He was initially cautious, saying it was “not yet confirmed” if the Chibok girls were among those released.
On Wednesday, he warned that it was “not safe or wise” to say the teenagers were not among the group. “You never can say. One or two could be among them.”
But army spokesman Sani Usman was more categoric, stating: “From our preliminary investigations, the rescued girls are not those abducted from Chibok in April last year.”
Details of the rescue came as Nigerian troops fought to flush out Boko Haram from its last remaining territory after a four-nation offensive against the group in the restive northeast.