In Brief

Dapchi kidnapping: Nigerian schoolgirls returned by Boko Haram

More than 90 of the abducted girls released by militant group after negotiations with government

Boko Haram militants have released 91 of the 110 Nigerian schoolgirls they abducted in February, authorities said today.

Witnesses in Dapchi, in the northeastern state of Yobe, said the fighters had returned the students taken from the town’s Government Girls Science and Technical College “out of pity”, telling parents “don’t you ever put your daughters in school again”, Sky News reports. The fate of the remaining girls is unclear, although five are believed to have died.

Boko Haram translates as “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language.

Bashir Manzo, who heads a parents’ support group in Dapchi, said: “The girls have been brought back. They were brought in nine vehicles and dropped outside the school at about 8am. I have the list of the missing girls with me, so I am now heading to the school to take a roll call of the returned girls to determine if any of them is still missing.

“These girls were not accompanied by any security personnel. Their abductors brought them, dropped them outside the school and left, without talking to anyone.

“We will get to know more details from the girls about their predicament while in captivity.”

The Dapchi kidnapping, on 19 February, “brought back painful memories of a similar abduction in Chibok in April 2014, when more than 200 girls were taken”, says The Daily Telegraph.

The Nigerian government “is widely reported to have paid £2m in ransom cash for the release last year of 82 of the 276 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls”, the newspaper adds.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said last week that the government had “chosen negotiation”, rather than use military force, to secure the return of the Dapchi girls.

“We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive,” he said.

Yan St-Pierre, a counterterrorism specialist with the Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, told South African news website IOL that the Dapchi girls’ release was not without precedent.

Earlier this year, a number of Boko Haram hostages, including university lecturers, were freed.

But according to St-Pierre, the latest release was “casual enough to raise a lot of questions, especially about the payment”.

“If they did pay, the Nigerian government likely paid a premium to accelerate the release in order to avoid another Chibok,” he added.

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