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Kidnapped Girls Exchanged for Militants in Nigeria

Three years ago, the world was shocked by the injustice and terror of the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls from a school in Nigeria by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Vowing to sell the girls off into marriage, Boko Haram threatened West Africa for years as many of the world’s leaders wondered how they could bring back the missing girls.

According to The New York Times, “Until now, only about 22 of the girls have been found or released, some with the help of the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.” That leaves 278 girls unaccounted for. However, on Saturday, May 6, dozens more of these missing schoolgirls were returned to the Nigerian government.

The government had been holding about 18 of Boko Haram’s founding members in custody after capturing them over a year ago, according to the New York Times. Using them as a leverage, the government offered a trade deal with Boko Haram for their members in exchange for 82 of the girls.

Rather than releasing all 18 of the Boko Haram militants, however, the government only exchanged 5 of the “top commanders.” It has been reported that Boko Haram, likewise, only turned over about 60 girls.

According to The New York Times, “even with the dozens believed to be released on Saturday, well over 100 girls are still thought to be in Boko Haram’s clutches, many possibly married to fighters or forced to become combatants themselves.” The government and Mr. Sani, a Nigerian senator, have devised a plan to continue swapping the captured militants in exchange for more of the kidnapped girls.

“Now, Boko Haram wants the rest of its leaders … opening a window to get many, if not all, of the 113 girls still missing from the kidnapping at the school,” according to another New York Times article. Mr. Sani reportedly believed that this trade deal of would be more successful than funneling over a lot of money to the militant group. He called the swapping deal of the militants for the kidnapped girls “a lesser evil.”

Unfortunately for the dozens of girls freed, life has not simply returned back to normal. “The 21 girls released last year remain in the custody of the government, which has promised to send them to school. Some were flown home to see their parents last Christmas, but they were not allowed to spend even one night in their homes, much to the frustration of their parents, who saw them for only a short time,” according to The New York Times.

These girls may not be able to return to their families for a while, as the government gathers evidence from them about the dealings of Boko Haram. The girls have given very insightful information so far about their captivity. Some tragically informed the government that many of their fellow schoolmates have since died in childbirth.

Although the government is making sweeping efforts to recover the kidnapped girls who are still alive, there are thousands of other children who have been abducted by Boko Haram over the years, forced “to fight, to cook, to clean and to bear children.” Hopefully, this success and the future return of the rest of the 300 girls will be the first of many steps to bringing justice to these terrorizing acts.

Featured Image by HazteOir.org on Flickr

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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