Gordon Brown in new plea over Chibok girls after Boko Haram frees other hostages

Chibok girls, Children in conflicts, Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown has issued a fresh plea to the kidnappers of the Chibok schoolgirls to release them immediately – after Boko Haram freed 158 women and children taken in a separate raid in Nigeria.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education urged the militants to free the 220 girls abducted from Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state last April. He said: “I am making a humanitarian plea after the terrorists released a group of women and girls following a kidnapping that took place in December. Now they have released some hostages, they should release them all.

“Boko Haram are piling cruelty upon cruelty by failing to free the girls. They have now been away from their families for 10 months.”

Mr Brown promised that there would be no-let up in the campaign to find them and free them.

He added: “We will keep up pressure until they are released and if they are still prisoners we will mark the one year of captivity with a vigil planned at the United Nations in New York on April 14.”

The former British Prime Minister was speaking after the terrorist group yesterday set free the captives – 62 women and 96 children – snatched in December during a raid on Katarko village in neighbouring Yobe state. They have been reunited with their families.

Nigerian website ThisDay Live reported one of the abducted women, Hauwa Mohammed, as saying: “They did not maltreat us during our captivity. We had enough food and drink all through our stay. Any time they entered where we were held to preach their ideology to us, they asked us to avoid looking at them.

“They called us pagans and when they were releasing us, they asked us to prepare to join other pagans in the town. We thank God that we are reunited with our families.”

The circumstances of their release are still unclear but it may spark hopes that the Chibok girls can finally be returned home. Despite the worldwide #BringBackOurGirls campaign,  their whereabouts remain unknown.

The last clue to where they might be was a heartbreaking but chilling picture of the girls huddled together on scrubland, all wearing black and grey hijabs. It was taken just weeks after the kidnapping and sent to news agencies by Boko Haram.

The 220 girls still missing were among about 270 girls kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School. The rest escaped the clutches of the terrorists – many  of them leaping off trucks and running off into the bush during the Chibok raid. Some of those girls are now back at school.

Yesterday the United States government gave its backing to the Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria by donating $2 million. The initiative is helping children in northeastern Nigeria – specifically in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. In a country where school enrollment rates are already among the lowest in the world, Boko Haram attacks and the Chibok abductions has deterred many families from sending their children to school.

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