One Of 219 Missing Nigerian Schoolgirls Reportedly Found Alive

May 18, 2016
Originally published on May 19, 2016 11:45 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to some good news from Nigeria. Authorities say one of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago is free. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been following the story and joins us now from Abuja, Nigeria. Hello, there.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.

SHAPIRO: What can you tell us about today's developments? How was the young woman found and in what condition?

QUIST-ARCTON: Ari, you'll remember that about 300 girls were abducted two years ago. Some managed to escape right at the beginning, in the dead of night, when they were taken away by Boko Haram, but 219 of them have been missing since that night in April 2014. You know, what, Ari? There are conflicting reports about exactly how she was found or rescued. But what we are being told is that Amina Ali Nkeki, now 19 years old, abducted when she was 17 - therefore, two years ago - was found wandering, we're told, in the Sambisa Forest. Now, the Sambisa Forest - it has been one of the main hideouts of Boko Haram. We were told that she was with a child and that she was totally traumatized. But she has apparently been reunited with her mother, although her father has died since she and the other Chibok schoolgirls were abducted back in 2014?

SHAPIRO: What have we been able to learn from her about the fate of the other girls who were kidnapped on that day two years ago?

QUIST-ARCTON: And, Ari, if this is proven to be true, this is what is so remarkable - because the families now for the past two years have heard that the girls have been rescued, the girls have been found - this, that and the other. But absolutely no contact except for a few weeks ago when 16 supposed Chibok girls appeared on a Boko Haram video. Now, this young woman, Amina Ali Nkeki, is apparently saying that six girls have died, but that the others missing - and that's more than 200 - are alive and in the Sambisa Forest.

If this proves to be true, Ari, this is huge news, not only for the family of the missing schoolgirls, but for Nigeria, for the government, and for Borno State, because they have been waiting and hoping and praying, but up till now - nothing. And it's really - it's important to remember that when Boko Haram abducted these young women - these schoolgirls - the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, said that they had been sold off to the militants as wives. We were told that they were being used as sex slaves and that they had been converted to Islam.

SHAPIRO: Remind us how the story of these girls fits into the larger narrative of the damage Boko Haram has been doing in the region.

QUIST-ARCTON: And it's always important to remember, Ari, that these young women are not the first girls to be abducted by Boko Haram. And since they were kidnapped two years ago, many more young girls, women, boys and men have been abducted. But this particular mass kidnapping really tore at the global heartstrings, not only of Nigerians. And it spawned the social media campaign Bring Back Our Girls that even Michelle Obama, the first lady, signed up to. Everybody felt a stake in the lives of these young women. Since that, Nigeria has changed hands. There was a democratic election last year, and there is now a little more confidence in the Nigerian army.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking with us from Abuja, Nigeria. Thanks so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.