According to family members and local authorities, at least one of more than 100 young women is still missing after the abduction by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram in the Nigerian city of Chibok nearly seven years ago.
Halima Ali Mayyanga told her family in a phone call on Thursday that she was one of the hundreds of detainees who were able to flee amid a Nigerian military offensive against Boko Haram fighters in Sambisa Forest in the country’s north-east.
The Chibok Association, formed after the abduction of 276 girls from their high school in Chibok city in 2014, said that many others had also gained their independence during the military raid. In 2016 and 2017 more than 100 people were freed after the payment of ransom and the release of some Boko Haram fighters by the government.
“Halima was in tears. She told that she was with the army and she needed some clothes because she had nothing, ”said her brother Muhammad Mayyanga. “We never thought we would see him again.”
Ms Maiyanga, now 22, was 15 when she was abducted the night before her year-end examination. Her elder sister Maryam Ali Mayyanga managed to escape in 2017 with a newborn son born after her forced marriage to a jihadi fighter.
“People have been cheering on us,” Sister said. “I can’t wait to reconnect with my sister.”
Neither the government of Nigeria nor the military responded to the call for comment. A Nigerian security official said that the army had determined that some of the survivors were from Chibok. Another said that he had only confirmed the release of more than 100 women.
Defense officials said the new offensive showed the military resuming the initiative a year after struggling to contain jihadists, who have become increasingly pervasive and bold.
According to the US Council on Foreign Relations, the period after July 2018 has been fatal for Nigeria’s security-service personnel in disintegrating conflict more than at any other time.
High schools are still being targeted by Boko Haram. According to Nigerian security officials, 344 students were abducted from a boys boarding school in Katina State in December, but were freed after paying ransom.
Boko Haram’s abduction of Chibok girls sparked a global #BringBackOurGirls campaign that turned them into the world’s most famous hostages. The hashtag prompted an international rescue effort led by the US, which deployed drones and satellites on the Sambisa Forest to hunt captives.
After the news of Ms. Mayanga’s escape, other families in Chibok were waiting expectantly, in the hope of news of the daughters resigned themselves to never see again. But after the claims of the girls being false, the community has seen their hopes dashed.
Rebecca Samuel, whose daughter Sarah was among the hostages, said she had a vivid dream Thursday night that her daughter came back alive and well.
“I told my husband about my dream this morning,” she said. “I have not stopped praying for the return of my daughter since she was abducted in 2014.”
-Kabiru Anwar contributed to this article.
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