MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — More than 60 Nigerian girls and women abducted two weeks ago by Islamic extremists have managed to escape, officials said Monday, though more than 200 girls kidnapped in April still remain missing.
Nigerian security forces and federal officials have denied reports of a mass abduction June 22 from three villages in the northeastern state of Borno. But Chibok government chairman Pogu Bitrus said Monday he had verified that about 60 women and girls escaped last week by sending a representative to meet with some of the escapees and their families at a hospital in Lassa.
Civil patrol leader Abbas Gava in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, said he was told 63 women and girls escaped Friday while their captors were engaged in a major attack on a military barracks and police headquarters in the town of Damboa.
The Associated Press had originally quoted witnesses and a local official saying that 90 people including about 30 boys had been kidnapped from the three villages on June 22. But Bitrus said those who escaped said no males were abducted with them.
Boko Haram extremists have been waging an insurgency for five years in northern Nigeria, demanding the establishment of an Islamic state. More than 2,000 people have died so far this year in the Islamic uprising, compared to an estimated 3,600 total deaths in the previous four years.
The group drew international condemnation for the April 15 abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok in the northern state of Borno. First reports put the number at more than 300, but a presidential committee said last month that there were 395 students at the school — 119 who escaped during the siege of the school and 57 who escaped in the first couple of days of their abduction, leaving 219 unaccounted for.
Boko Haram is demanding the release of detained fighters in exchange for the Chibok girls but Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly has refused to consider a prisoner swap.