More than 60 girls and women kidnapped by armed men from Nigeria's Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram a fortnight ago have managed to escape, officials said. However, over 200 other girls who were abducted separately about two months ago are still captive.
A local official from the Chibok area of the northeast state of Borno told The Associated Press Monday that he can confirm that the women and girls escaped Thursday and Friday. He said he had sent his representatives to talk to some of the girls.
The victims were kidnapped during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state on June 22, as the terror group supposedly sought to pressure the government to secure the release of its militant fighters.
"Over 60 women were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists," a local vigilante leader, Aji Khalil, told Agence France Presse earlier. "They were forcefully taken away by Boko Haram terrorists. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot."
Another vigilante leader, identified as Abbas Gava, in Borno state's capital of Maiduguri told the AP on Sunday that he heard from other vigilantes in the area that 63 women and girls managed to escape while the armed men from Boko Haram were attacking military barracks and police headquarters in Damboa.
Earlier, on the night of April 14-15, Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped more than 250 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok.
Police later said 53 of those abducted managed to escape. Sarah Lawan, a 19-year-old student who was able to escape, earlier said that most girls made no attempt to run away as the gunmen had threatened to shoot them. "I am pained that my other colleagues could not summon the courage to run away with me," she said. "Now I cry each time I come across their parents and see how they weep when they see me."
It is believed that many of the girls and women abducted are Christian.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had threatened to sell the girls "in the market."
"I abducted your girls," Shekau said in a 57-minute video obtained by the AFP earlier. "I abducted a girl at a western education school and you are disturbed. I said western education should end. Western education should end. Girls, you should go and get married. I will repeat this: western education should fold up. I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine."
The government of President Goodluck Jonathan has been criticized for its slow and inadequate response.
Boko Haram is designated as a foreign terrorist organization in the United States and the European Union.
The terror outfit was formed by an Islamic cleric, Mohammad Yusuf, about a decade ago to fight Western education, which he claimed was behind moral and political corruption in the country. Yusuf was from the Salafi movement, which has promoted jihadist terrorism in several countries.
Thousands of people have died in attacks since Boko Haram's insurrection began in 2009.
Boko Haram has also killed numerous Christians and attacked several churches. It is apparently seeking to create an Islamic state in the Muslim-majority northern Nigeria. It is believed that it gained technical sophistication and weaponry with help from groups like al-Shabaab in southern Somalia and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali.