Maiduguri (Nigeria), July 7 (AP): More than 60 Nigerian girls and women abducted by Islamic extremists two weeks ago have managed to escape, officials said today.
Nigerian security forces and federal government officials had denied reports of the mass abduction from three villages in the northeast state of Borno on June 22.
Chibok local government chairman Pogu Bitrus said today he had verified that about 60 women and girls escaped on Thursday and Friday by sending a representative who met with some of the escapees and their families at a hospital in Lassa, a town in the neighbouring Damboa local government area.
Vigilante leader Abbas Gava in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, said yesterday that vigilantes in the area told him 63 girls and women escaped on Friday while their captors were engaged in a major attack on a military barracks and police headquarters in Damboa town.
Small-scale kidnappings by Boko Haram extremists had been going on for months when they drew international condemnation for the abductions of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok town of Borno state on April 15.
The government and military failure to rescue them has attracted criticism at home and abroad.
Boko Haram is demanding the release of detained fighters in exchange for the girls. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly has refused to consider a prisoner swap.
Amid the stalemate, Bitrus said that attacks have increased around Chibok and that Boko Haram has taken over some villages in the area and is threatening to take over others.