Nigeria marks 3 years since 276 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram
The fate of nearly 200 girls remains unknown.
April 14, 2017, 7:14 PM
• 11 min read
-- It’s been three years since Boko Haram militants ambushed the small Nigerian town of Chibok in the middle of the night and abducted 276 schoolgirls before vanishing into the forest.
Some of the girls managed to escape, while others were later freed. But the fate of nearly 200 still remains unknown.
“I will never forget about them and I will never stop speaking until they come back," one of the escaped girls, identified as Sa'a, told a press conference Friday, marking the painful anniversary in Washington, D.C.
The kidnapping shocked the world and led to the launch of a social media campaign in which millions of people around the globe, including high-profile political figures and celebrities, called for the girls' rescue by tweeting the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. However, there has been little political action.
"Our Chibok girls went to get educated. Education is the lifeline to great opportunities. We cannot deprive them of that opportunity by leaving them with Boko Haram. They must be back," Oby Ezekwesili of the #BringBackOurGirls movement said Friday in an interview with BBC News.
"The rest of the world that seems to have moved on cannot move on. We’re all in captivity for as long as schoolgirls who went in quest of knowledge in order to further our civilization were taken away by those who are haters of our civilization."
On Wednesday night, the Nigerian government said it "has gone quite far with negotiations" with Boko Haram to release the remaining schoolgirls.
Boko Haram, which seeks to establish an Islamic state, launched its brutal insurgency in northern Nigeria by 2009. The Islamic militant group has since spread its terror across Nigeria's mountainous borders into Niger, Chad and Cameroon, all of which surround the Lake Chad Basin.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates into "Western education is forbidden," has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced some 2.3 million, according to the latest figures from the United Nations. The jihadist group's uprising was fueled largely through the group's systematic campaign of abducting children and forcing thousands of girls and boys into their ranks, according to a report issued Wednesday by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The upheaval has also contributed to a severe famine. In 2017, 340,000 people in Nigeria are expected to face food insecurity and about 12,000 children will suffer from acute malnutrition, according to Oxfam.
"The Chibok abduction remains one of the most well-known examples, but the practice is widespread; it preceded Chibok and continues to this day," the report said. "As the world marks three years since the abduction of the Chibok girls, it is an opportunity to reflect on the wider implications for children in this crisis. While the abductions in Chibok horrified the world, a shocking part of the story is what happens to children in captivity –- and after they are released."
Here's a timeline looking back at the abduction and important developments:
April 14, 2014
The militants vanish with the schoolgirls behind the dense forest brush by sunrise.
May 18, 2016
Two days later, the Nigerian military says it has recaptured Chibok.
May 29, 2015
May 18, 2016
"Especially because they have been in captivity for so long," the minister notes. "We are now contacting their parents as part of the necessary verification exercise.
Mohammed says the girls' negotiated release was not a prisoner swap with Boko Haram.
"Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides," he says. "We see this as a credible first step in the eventual release of all the Chibok girls in captivity. It is also a major step in confidence building between us as a government and the Boko Haram leadership on the issue of the Chibok girls."
Elodie Schindler, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, confirms to ABC News that the humanitarian group, "acting as a neutral intermediary," transferred 21 of the missing Chibok schoolgirls and handed them over to Nigerian authorities on Thursday. The group was not part of the Nigerian government's negotiations with Boko Haram and was only involved in the girls' transfer and transport. Schindler denies providing further comment or additional details.
The successful negotiations mark the first major breakthrough since the girls were kidnapped.