One of the hundreds of Christian schoolgirls kidnapped 18 months ago by Boko Haram reportedly made it out of the Nigerian terrorist group's stronghold and told of her fellow captives' ongoing misery, but a military official disputed the claim.
The April 14, 2014, kidnapping of 276 girls from the northern town of Chibok prompted international headlines and a social media campaign made prominent by First Lady Michelle Obama calling for authorities to "Bring back our girls." While dozens fled in the initial months following capture, the unidentified girl would be the most recent victim to escape the infamous Islamic terror group's clutches. According to local reports, she said dozens of girls are still alive, many pregnant from rape and riddled with disease.
"All of us were forced to become Muslims but kept in camps far from each other," the girl reportedly told The Vanguard. "You can only see and recognize those in your camp as any of us who refused being Islamized was either beheaded or shot at point blank range."
"All of us were forced to become Muslims but kept in camps far from each other."
- Reported Boko Haram victim
The report claimed the girl was able to escape from her captors at a Boko Haram camp in the dense Sambisa forest in the northern Borno state, near Chad, and run into the safety of local herdsman.
"When the Fulani herdsman saw the girl in the bush and questioned her about her mission, she narrated her experience, which made the herdsman to take her to the soldiers in that area,” an unidentified source reportedly told the Nigerian newspaper. “With her escape, there are now 59 of the girls left in her camp."
Although The Vangaurd reported that the girl was taken to a local military base for debriefing, a military official called dismissed the claim as "a spurious report" that "should be disregarded."
The issue could be a sensitive one, as the Nigerian military has been under intense pressure to save the girls and crack down on the terrorist group, which has committed dozens of atrocities in the northern part of the country. If an escapee has conveyed useful information, it is possible the government wanted to keep it under wraps.
The girl reportedly told authorities the remaining captives are being held in half a dozen towns located in the border communities around Lake Chad, which sits on the border of Nigeria and Chad.
Boko Haram, whose name translates to "Western education is forbidden," has pledged allegiance to ISIS, though its reach has not extended far from northern Nigeria. Although the group had committed previous mass atrocities, including an attack a month before the mass kidnapping in which 29 boys at a boarding school were locked in the building and burned alive, the Chibok incident drew unprecedented international condemnation.
Boko Haram was believed to have taken the abductees to its stronghold in the Samibisa national forest. Many of the girls are believed to have been sold into slavery.