KANO, Nigeria, May 18, (Agencies): The first of 219 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok in northeast Nigeria more than two years ago has been found, activists, the head of a support group and a community leader said Wednesday.
Amina Ali was discovered on Tuesday in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno state by civilian vigilantes assisting the military and brought back to her home town of Mbalala, near Chibok.
“She met her parents, who recognised their daughter before she was taken to the military base in Damboa,” Ayuba Alamson Chibok, a community leader in Chibok, told AFP.
“Her father’s name is Ali and the girl’s name is Amina. I know the family very well because I have worked with them, being a spokesman for the families of the Chibok girls.”
Yakubu Nkeki, head of the Abducted Chibok Girls Parents’ group, also confirmed her name and said she was 17 when she was abducted.
He added: “She’s the daughter of my neighbour… They brought her to my house.”
Tsambido Hosea Abana, a Chibok community leader in the capital, Abuja, from the BringBackOurGirls pressure group, was the first to give details about the discovery.
All three men said the teenager appeared to have given birth while in captivity while Abana said other kidnapped girls were in the forest, which the military has been targeting for several weeks.
There was no immediate word from the Nigerian authorities.
Boko Haram seized 276 students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the immediate aftermath.
Nothing had been heard from the 219 still held captive since a video published by the Islamists in May 2014 until an apparent “proof of life” message was sent to the Nigerian government earlier this year. The abduction sparked outrage worldwide and brought global attention to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed at least 20,000 people and made more than 2.6 million homeless since 2009.
She was found wandering in the forest, uncle Yakubu Nkeki told The Associated Press. He said the 19-year-old — she was 17 when she was abducted — was brought to Chibok Tuesday night for her identity to be verified and to be reunited with her mother. Her father died while she was held captive, he said.
He said the soldiers then took the young woman away, apparently to a military camp in the town of Damboa.
Other Chibok girls may also have been rescued by soldiers hunting down Boko Haram in the remote northeastern Sambisa Forest on Tuesday night, said Chibok community leader Pogu Bitrus. He said he is working with officials to establish their identities.
Boko Haram Islamic extremists stormed and firebombed the Government Girls Secondary School at Chibok on April 14, 2014, and seized 276 girls who were preparing to write science exams. Dozens escaped in the first hours, but 219 remained missing.
The inability of Nigeria’s government and military to rescue them led, in part, to the electoral defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan last year.
It’s not known how many thousands of girls, boys and young women have been kidnapped by Boko Haram in a nearly 7-year-old insurgency that has killed some 20,000 people and spread across Nigeria’s borders.
Nigeria’s military has reported freeing thousands this year as they have forced the extremists from towns and into strongholds in the sprawling Sambisa Forest. Boko Haram has turned to soft targets using suicide bombers.