After Nearly Seven Years Held Captive by Boko Haram, a Chibok Girl Manages to Escape

least one of the more than 100 young women still missing after being abducted by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram nearly seven years ago in the Nigerian city of Chibok escaped her captors this week, according to family members and local authorities.

Halima Ali Mayanga

told her family by phone Thursday that she was one of hundreds of prisoners who escaped during a Nigerian military offensive against Boko Haram militants in the northeastern Sambisa Forest.

The Chibok Association, which was formed after 276 girls were kidnapped from their secondary school in Chibok town in 2014, said several others were also granted freedom during the army’s withdrawal. More than 100 of them were released in 2016 and 2017 after the government paid ransom and freed some Boko Haram fighters.

“Halima was in tears. She told us she was in the army and needed clothes because she had nothing,” her brother said.

Muhammad Mayanga

said. “We thought we would never see her again.”

Miss Mayanga, now 22, was 15 years old when she was kidnapped the day before her final exams. Her oldest child…

Maryam Ali’s sister

Mayanga managed to escape in 2017 with a child born from a forced marriage to a jihadist.

“People have come to rejoice with us,” the sister said. “I can’t wait to see my sister.”

A man from Lagos drove past the portraits of some Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.


pius utomi ekpei/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Neither the Nigerian government nor the military responded to calls for comment. A Nigerian security official stated that the military had determined that some of the fugitives were from Chibok. Another said they had only confirmed that more than 100 women had been released.

According to defense officials, the new offensive shows that the military is regaining the initiative after a years-long struggle to contain the jihadists with increasing scope and boldness.

According to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, the period since July 2018 has been more deadly for Nigerian security personnel than at any time in the decade of the conflict.

Secondary schools continue to be attacked by Boko Haram. In December, 344 students were kidnapped from a boys’ boarding school in Katsina State, but were released after a ransom was paid, according to Nigerian security officials.

The abduction of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram sparked a global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, briefly making them the world’s most notorious hostages. The hashtag triggered an international rescue operation led by the United States which deployed drones and satellites over the Sambisa forest to search for captives.

After Ms. Mayanga’s escape was announced, other families in Chibok anxiously awaited news about their daughters, some of whom had resigned themselves to never seeing each other again. But the community’s hopes had already been dashed after allegations that the girls’ release had turned out to be false.

Rebecca Samuel,

whose daughter Sarah was among the hostages, said she had a very strong dream Thursday night in which she said her daughter had returned alive and well.

“This morning I told my husband about my dream,” she says, “I have not stopped praying for my daughter’s return since she was kidnapped in 2014.

After being kidnapped by Boko Haram, 21 schoolgirls from Chibok are reunited with their parents during a moving reunion in Abuja, Nigeria, in October 2016. Photo: AP (originally published October 16, 2016)

-Kabiru Anwar contributed to this article.

Email Joe Parkinson at [email protected]

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