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Nigerian girl rescued after 10 years in captivity

April 19, 2024

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — The Nigerian army says it has rescued one of the missing Chibok schoolgirls abducted by militant Islamic group Boko Haram a decade ago.

Lydia Simon was rescued along with her three children by troops conducting an operation in the northern Borno State, the military said Thursday, adding that she was five months pregnant at the time of her rescue.

The army didn’t specify how or when the rescue happened, only saying it was “recent.” 

CNN has contacted the military for comment.

Of the 276 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014, more than 100 have eventually regained their freedom.

The fate of more than 80 girls remains unknown, according to figures from Amnesty International.

The mass 2014 abduction sparked a global social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, which called for their release as well as more government action to protect girls’ education.

Boko Haram, whose purpose is to institute Sharia, or Islamic law, has waged a 15-year insurgency battle in northern Nigeria and kidnapped thousands of people.

But the abduction of the Chibok girls remains the highest-profile example of the group’s targeting of schools.

The latest rescue of a Chibok student was announced a day after the Nigerian army said it had “successfully overrun a Boko Haram/Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) stronghold in Borno State following air raids and ground combat in the vast Sambisa forest that has served as an enclave for extremist groups for years.

A decade later: Chibok kidnapping survivors tell their stories

Survivors of the Chibok kidnapping recently shared their harrowing experiences in captivity with CNN on the 10th anniversary of their abduction.

One of them Amina Ali, 27, was forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter, spending two years in captivity, before escaping.

She is studying and working toward a bright future for herself and her 8-year-old daughter, whom she told CNN has been stigmatised and labelled a “child of Boko Haram.”

Another survivor, Hannatu Stephen, 26, who was freed in 2017, lost a leg during an air raid by the Nigerian military on a Boko Haram hideout. 

Six of her friends were killed in the bombing, she said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Hauwa Ishaya, who was 16 when she was abducted, said she was beaten by her captors and pressured to take a Boko Haram husband, which, she said, she managed to evade. 

Ishaya was also reunited with her family in 2017 after spending three years as a “slave,” treating injured Boko Haram fighters.

Persistent kidnappings

Kidnappings and raids on schools have persisted across northern Nigeria since 2014, with more than 1,600 students kidnapped and nearly 200 others killed, according to a report by Save the Children.

Criminal gangs are also exploiting the vulnerabilities exposed by extremist groups, leading to a rise in the kidnapping-for-ransom industry, the report found.

On March 7, more than 100 students, mostly girls, were reportedly taken by criminal gangs from a school in Kuriga, in northwest Nigeria.

Two days later, 15 more children were abducted from a boarding school in Sokoto state, also in the northwest, according to Human Rights Watch.

The rescue was announced a day after the Nigerian army said it had overrun a Boko Haram enclave in the vast Sambisa forest. (Photo: Adam Dobby/CNN via CNN Newsource)


By Stephanie Busari and Michael Rios, CNN

Stephanie Busari reported from Lagos, and Michael Rios wrote from Atlanta.

CNN’s Nimi Princewill contributed to this report.

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