Another Chibok schoolgirl found, military says

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At least one more former Chibok schoolgirl abducted by Boko Haram militants in 2014 has been found, Nigerian army Col. Sani Usman said.

Serah Luka was rescued about 5 p.m. local time Thursday during a military operation against the ISIS-affiliated militants, Usman said.

A total of 97 women and children were freed, he said. At least 35 Boko Haram fighters were killed, he added.

Luka is the daughter of a pastor, Usman said, and had only started at the boarding school in Chibok a little more than two months before the Boko Haram raid. She was taken to a hospital.

But activists and residents of Chibok are disputing the claim and asking for more verification. They say Luka’s name is not on the list of those missing.

As many as 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped at gunpoint from the school in northeast Nigeria, on April 14, 2014. Thursday’s news came two days after government officials said another kidnap victim, Amina Ali Nkeki, was found in northeastern Nigeria.

Amina met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja on Thursday.

During the emotional meeting, President Buhari held the baby Amina gave birth to while a captive of the terror group.

“Like all Nigerians and many others around the world, I am delighted that Amina Ali is free, but it is tinged with deep sorrow with what she had to go through,” Buhari said.

Amina was accompanied by her family and Borno State Gov. Kashim Shettima, whose residence she had visited the previous night.

Shettima had treated Amina, who was limping and severely malnourished when she arrived with her baby at his home, like a “VIP guest,” a state government official told CNN.

“She is receiving high-level medical attention and the best doctors in the state are attending to her. The governor ordered for her release from the military as he wanted to make sure she and her baby daughter received urgent medical and psychological attention,” he said.

Separated from ‘husband’

Amina made world headlines Wednesday when news broke that she had escaped the Islamist terror group after enduring more than two years in its clutches.

She was the first of the so-called Chibok girls to escape since the 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped at gunpoint from their boarding school in northeast Nigeria.

As many as 57 girls were able to escape almost immediately, but more than 200 have remained missing since then.

When Amina escaped, she was accompanied by a young man who said he was her husband and the father of her baby. He said he had been kidnapped by Boko Haram and taken to their forest stronghold, where he married Amina.

But a government official told CNN that Amina had been “completely detached” from the man, who remains in military detention and is being interrogated.

Bittersweet reunion

Amina was briefly reunited with her mother on Tuesday night at the family home in Mbalala before being held by the army, CNN learned.

A neighbor who witnessed the emotional meeting told CNN that her mother, Binta Ali, was very distressed when she first saw her daughter.

“The mom was very disturbed,” said the neighbor, who did not want to be named.

“She was full of happiness but at the same time seeing the situation of her daughter, who is a Christian, with a baby and a Boko Haram husband and wearing a hijab, she was just crying bitterly,” said the neighbor.

“Even Amina was comforting her mother saying she should be happy to see her alive. She was very happy to see her but she was also very sad.”

Conflicting accounts

It is still unclear how Amina escaped from the clutches of Boko Haram, but the government official said it was likely as a result of the sustained military campaign in the Sambisa Forest. The dense forest in Nigeria’s northeast is believed to be the terrorist group’s stronghold, and has long been the suspected location of the missing girls.

“The governor has ordered that no one should ask her any questions for now but it’s likely that she may have taken her chance to escape based on a military attack carried out in the Sambisa Forest,” the official said. “I believe more Chibok girls could have escaped and could still be in the Sambisa.”

On Wednesday, a member of a civilian vigilante group set up to help fight Boko Haram told CNN he had been on a nightly patrol on the edge of Sambisa Forest on Tuesday night when when the girl and some companions wandered out around 7 p.m.

He recognized her as one of the missing schoolgirls, although she looked different and was in poor physical condition, as were the baby and man with her.

Nigeria’s government has said the girl was rescued by government troops that were working with the civilian force. Operations to find the missing girls have intensified recently with a deep push into Sambisa Forest, a military spokesman told CNN’s Nima Elbagir.

Campaign of terror

The girls’ kidnapping sparked global outrage, including the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media.

But Nigeria’s government has so far proven largely powerless to recover the girls.

Last month, CNN obtained a video of some of the missing Chibok girls that had been sent to negotiators by their captors as “proof of life,” and showed it to some of the girls’ mothers, who had not been shown the footage by officials.

Boko Haram, based mainly in Nigeria’s northern states but responsible also for attacks in neighboring countries, is seeking to implement sharia law. According to a report released in November, the Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram was the world’s deadliest terrorist group in 2014, responsible for 6,644 deaths, compared with ISIS, which was responsible for 6,073.

Besides the spate of kidnappings, the group has also pursued a ruthless campaign of bombing marketplaces throughout Nigeria and neighboring countries.

CNN’s Nana Karikari, David McKenzie, Brent Swails and Tim Hume contributed to this report.

By Stephanie Busari

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