Nigerian military at odds over identity of freed hostages

2015-04-29 12:02
A screengrab from a video released by Boko Haram shows some of the kidnapped girls. (File: AFP)

A screengrab from a video released by Boko Haram shows some of the kidnapped girls. (File: AFP)

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Abuja - Nigeria's top brass warned on Wednesday against premature declarations on 200 girls rescued from Boko Haram after the army said they were not the same girls kidnapped by the militants in an especially notorious incident in Chibok.

The military announced on Tuesday evening that it had rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the Islamists militants' Sambisa Forest stronghold in the northeastern state of Borno.

Defence spokesperson Chris Olukolade said the former hostages were being screened to determine their identities and said it was "not yet confirmed" if the Chibok schoolgirls were among them.

He told AFP on Wednesday: "It's not wise or safe to quickly declare that there are no Chibok girls among them. You never can say. One or two could be among them.

Worldwide condemnation

"The fact is that that number has to be screened. We must have heard from them saying where they came from. For now, they are still being screened to ascertain their identities."

Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno state, on April 14 last year. Fifty-seven escaped in the hours that followed but 219 have been held since then in an incident which provoked worldwide condemnation.

Any rescue would be welcomed not just in Nigeria, where supporters have maintained a daily vigil for their release in the capital, Abuja, and around the world.

But army spokesman Sani Usman appeared to dash hopes of their liberation.

"Naturally the Chibok girls will come to people's mind when they hear that 200 girls have been rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa Forest.


"But from our preliminary investigations the rescued girls are not those abducted from Chibok in April last year."

Usman said the vast former colonial-era game reserve housed several Boko Haram camps and the military had so far destroyed only four.

Troops were working to establish the identities of the girls and women as well as when and where they were abducted, he said.

At least 2 000 women and girls have been kidnapped since the start of last year, according to Amnesty International.

"Our operation is ongoing and we hope to rescue all these girls and women, including the Chibok girls from Boko Haram, in due course," Usman added.

"But now we can state clearly that these girls are not Chibok girls."

Read more on:    boko haram  |  nigeria  |  west africa

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