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Saturday
Nov122016

21 Chibok girls freed

By Michelle Faul & Oyekanmi Olalekan

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) – NIGERIA’S GOVERNMENT is negotiating the release of another 83 of the Chibok schoolgirls taken in a mass abduction two-and-a-half years ago, but more than 100 others appear unwilling to leave their Boko Haram Islamic extremist captors.

The unwilling girls may have been radicalized by Boko Haram or are ashamed to return home because they were forced to marry extremists and have babies, chairman Pogu Bitrus of the Chibok Development Association told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Bitrus said the 21 Chibok girls freed on Oct. 13th in the first negotiated release between Nigeria’s government and Boko Haram should be educated abroad, because they will probably face stigma in Nigeria.

The girls and their parents were reunited several days later in the capitol, Abuja. 

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said that his government is prepared to talk with Boko Haram as long as the extremists agree to involve organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was an intermediary in the last release.

Some 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school in northeastern Chibok in April 2014. Dozens escaped early on and at least half a dozen have died in captivity, according to the newly freed girls, Bitrus said.

All those who escaped on their own have left Chibok because, even though they were held only a few hours, they were labelled “Boko Haram wives” and taunted, he said. At least 20 of the girls are being educated in the United States.

“We would prefer that they are taken away from the community and this country because the stigmatization is going to affect them for the rest of their lives,” Bitrus said. “Even someone believed to have been abused by Boko Haram would be seen in a bad light.”

The freed girls have told their parents they were separated into two groups early on in their captivity, when Boko Haram commanders gave them the choice of joining the extremists and embracing Islam, or becoming their slaves, Bitrus said. The girls freed and those whose release is being negotiated, numbering 104, are believed to be in the group that rejected Islam and Boko Haram, he explained. The freed girls said they never saw the other girls again.

Chibok is a small conservative Christian enclave in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, where many parents are involved in translating the Bible into local languages.

Nigeria’s government has denied reports that the girls were swapped for four Boko Haram commanders, or that a large ransom was paid.    TAP        

– Associated Press

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