Years After Boko Haram Kidnapping, Dozens of Nigerian Girls Are Freed

An international campaign, led by Nigerians but joined by prominent figures around the globe like Michelle Obama, then the first lady, demanded immediate action to bring the girls home. But the leader of Boko Haram scoffed at the world’s sudden attention to Nigeria’s upheaval and shrugged off the global outrage, vowing to sell the girls in the market and “give their hands in marriage because they are our slaves.”

“We would marry them out at the age of 9,” warned the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. “We would marry them out at the age of 12.”

Until now, only about 22 of the girls have been found or released. And even with the dozens believed to be released on Saturday, well over 100 girls are still thought to be in Boko Haram’s clutches, many possibly married to fighters or forced to become combatants themselves. Previously released girls have told family members that some of the girls from Chibok have died in childbirth or in military raids.

Beyond that, many hundreds, if not thousands, of other girls and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram over the years, forcing them to fight, to cook, to clean and to bear children. Children as young as 7 or 8 have been used as suicide bombers by the group, deployed as human weapons who have brought destruction to markets and even camps of desperate people fleeing the violence.

The search for the missing girls has gone through may twists and turns over the years, sometimes resulting in false reports of progress. At times, government and military officials have been quoted in the Nigerian news media as saying that a cease-fire deal had been struck with the militants or that the release of the kidnapped girls had been arranged, statements that later proved to be untrue.

Many of the declarations turned out to be false.

“I need to see it myself,” said Yakubu Nkeki, chairman, of the Abducted Chibok Girls Parents Movement for Rescue, one of several groups working…

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