A group of 158 women and children abducted by Boko Haram militants in north-eastern Nigeria in December have been reunited with their families. They were kidnapped during a raid on Katarko village in Yobe state and spent about a month in captivity.
The circumstances of their release are unclear but they were eventually handed over to the state authorities for counselling and rehabilitation.Officials said the reunion in the state capital, Damaturu, was jubilant. In April last year, the Islamist insurgents caused worldwide outrage when they kidnapped more than 200 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno state, which borders Yobe.The schoolgirls have yet to be rescued despite military assistance from countries such as China, France, the UK and the US.
Of the 158 people reunited with their families, 62 were married women and the rest were children, Musa Idi Jidawa, the secretary of Yobe’s State Emergency Management Agency (Sema), told the BBC.He said husbands of 16 of the women had been killed by Boko Haram during the attack.
Muhammdu Katarko said he was very happy to see his two daughters at the reunion on Thursday.”I had given up when they were kidnapped; my hope was to see even their dead bodies,” he told the BBC Hausa service. “But fortunately I have now seen them alive, health and hearty.” One of the abductees, who requested anonymity, told reporters in Damaturu that they were treated humanely by the militants.
The Chibok girls’ abduction sparked a social media campaign calling for more to be done to rescue them. She said the insurgents did not rape or abuse the women during their stay. The BBC’s Ishaq Khalid reporting from neighbouring Bauchi state says there were conflicting accounts about how the abductees gained their freedom. Some reports suggested the insurgents released them voluntarily and took them to the outskirts of Damaturu, he says.
But Mr Jidawa said the militants had come under attack from the security forces and they had run away, leaving behind their captives. The reunited families will stay in Damaturu until it is safe to return to their village, which is still occupied by Boko Haram fighters and is in an area where the military is carrying out operations.
Originally Posted by BBC News