One of the more than 100 schoolgirls who remain missing since their abduction from the Nigerian town of Chibok by the Boko Haram terror group in 2014 has escaped her captors, and her family is rejoicing while awaiting her return after seven long years.
Halima Ali Maiyanga was 15 when she was kidnapped. She’s returning home as a 22-year-old woman.
“Halima was in tears. She told us she was with the military and needed some clothes because she had nothing,” her brother, Muhammad Maiyanga, who spoke to Halima on the phone, told The Wall Street Journal. “We never thought we’d see her again.”
Halima was among the 276 girls kidnapped from a boarding school, an incident that gained international attention with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Some of the schoolgirls fled soon after the mass abduction in 2014, while others were released as part of a deal with the Nigerian government in 2016. Dozens more were released in 2017 as part of a prisoner exchange.
Halima managed to flee during a Nigerian military offensive against Boko Haram fighters in the Sambisa Forest in the country’s northeast, according to the Journal, which said her older sister, Maryam Ali Maiyanga, was released in 2017 along with an infant son born after her forced marriage to a jihadist fighter.
“People have been coming to rejoice with us,” the sister was quoted as saying. “I can’t wait to reunite with my sister again.”
Last month, alleged Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped a large number of boarding school students from Kankara Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina state.
“They commanded the crowd like a herdsman herd the sheep,” Hassan Abdul-Bashir told CNN at the time. “They shot the policeman guarding our school. I saw them driving many students. There could (be) as much as 200 students, but I am not sure.”
Days later, security forces managed to rescue the boys without any fighting, though not all of those captured were rescued.
Boko Haram grooms the boys it captures to become terrorists, Save the Persecuted Christians Executive Director, Dede Laugesen, told The Christian Post at the time, adding that in some cases, the group forces children as young as 8 years old to execute Christians.
Boko Haram’s opposition to education creates a vicious cycle that leads to more terrorism, said Laugesen. Children are afraid to attend school because terrorists attack education centers. Without education, they can’t get jobs to provide for themselves as adults. Jobless, uneducated young adults often become terrorists.
Nigeria’s government often lets terrorist groups operate unopposed, she said. Nigeria receives lots of international money to help it fight terrorists. Keeping them around means more cash in the hands of its leaders.