Just two days after a vigilante group found one of the missing schoolgirls that had been kidnapped more than two years ago by the militant group Boko Haram from a government school in Chibok, Nigeria, a Nigerian military spokesman announced on May 19 that a second school girl had been rescued in a military operation against the terror group.
The recovery of the two young women is a victory for the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, and the first real sign that an agonizing chapter in Nigeria’s ongoing fight with Islamist militancy may yet come to an end.
For parents of the remaining girls whose whereabouts are unknown, it is reason to start hoping again.
Nigerian army spokesman Sani Usman said in an emailed statement that Serah Luka had been among 97 women and children rescued by the military following clashes with Boko Haram in the country’s northeast.
“We are glad to state that among those rescued is a girl believed to be one of the Chibok Government Secondary School girls that were abducted,” Usman said in the statement, which was obtained by Reuters.
According to Dauda Iliya, spokesman for the Chibok community in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, there is some confusion as to Luka’s identity: she was not on the original list of missing schoolgirls, which had been drawn up based on students registered to take exams at the time of the kidnapping. Instead it seems that Luka, a new student at the time, may have been simply visiting a friend when the
militants descended on the school on April 14, 2014.
Either way, says Iliya, she was definitely in captivity with the other schoolgirls, and likely has important information to share about the location and condition of the others. “This is undeniably good news. This young lady has come with a lot of information for the government to follow. This brings us closer to finding the rest of the girls.”
What remains in question, however, is how the remaining students will be treated if and when they are found. Other women and children who have escaped from Boko Haram — the terror group is estimated to be holding several thousand captives — have been rejected by their communities and treated with deep suspicion, for fear that they may have been brainwashed, or that they might have divided loyalties. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has repeatedly announced that female captives will be forcibly converted to Islam and taken as wives for his fighters.