Ex­cited ppar­ents par­ents ea­gerg to see 21 ggirls girls freed from Boko Haram

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

Abuja — A group of Nige­rian par­ents are wait­ing with ex­cite­ment to be re­united with 21 girls kid­napped by Boko Haram two-and-a-half years ago and freed in the first ne­go­ti­ated re­lease or­gan­ised by Nige­ria’s gov­ern­ment and the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist group.

The girls were re­leased on Thurs­day and flown to Abuja, Nige­ria’s cap­i­tal.

It’s taken days for the par­ents to ar­rive from the re­mote north­east­ern town of Chi­bok, from where nearly 300 girls were kid­napped in an April 2014 mass ab­duc­tion that shocked the world.

Tsam­bido Hosea Abana, the Chi­bok com­mu­nity leader in Abuja, said most par­ents ar­rived on Sun­day af­ter driv­ing hours over pot­holed roads, slowed by mil­i­tary check­points and the dan­ger of at­tacks by the in­sur­gents.

Abana said the girls were get­ting med­i­cal at­ten­tion and trauma coun­selling in a hos­pi­tal. Some are “ema­ci­ated” from hunger, he said.

“When we heard that they found some of the girls and our daugh­ter was among them . . . we wanted the day to break in a hurry to see if the gov­ern­ment was go­ing to call us to come see our daugh­ter,” one fa­ther, Muta Abana, said.

Dozens of girls es­caped from the mil­i­tants in the first few hours af­ter the kid­nap­ping. With this week’s re­lease, 197 still re­main cap­tive.

The gov­ern­ment says ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­tin­u­ing to win their free­dom.

Abana, who has been liv­ing in Nasarawa state, which neigh­bours Abuja, was not with­out anx­i­ety as many of the girls re­port­edly have been forced to marry Boko Haram fight­ers.

“Now our chil­dren are back, some of them came back with ba­bies. But think about it, are we go­ing to kill the chil­dren?” Abana asked, speak­ing in the Hausa lan­guage.

“We won’t be able to kill the chil­dren be­cause it would be as if we don’t want the girls to come back. God knows why it hap­pened. It’s God’s will.”

There are con­flict­ing re­ports about how the girls were freed, with two mil­i­tary of­fi­cers telling the AP they were ex­changed for four detained Boko Haram com­man­ders, and a Nige­rian who ne­go­ti­ated pre­vi­ous failed at­tempts say­ing a large ran­som was paid by the Swiss gov­ern­ment on be­half of the Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties.

The of­fi­cers and ne­go­tia­tor, who did not take part in the lat­est talks, spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they are not au­tho­rised to dis­cuss the mat­ter with the press. — AP

Hil­lary Clin­ton

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