Islamic extremists who abducted 111 girls last month in Nigeria’s northern village of Dapchi are releasing one more girl, Nigeria’s police chief said on Sunday. Leah Sharibu, 15, was held back on Wednesday when 105 of her classmates were freed by Boko Haram extremists after negotiations. She remained a prisoner because she is Christian and refused to convert to Islam, her mother said. Five other girls kidnapped at the same time are unaccounted for and are presumed to have died in a stampede when the girls tried to run away from their captors.
Police Inspector General Muhammed Abubakar said today that he canceled a trip to Dapchi to avoid interfering with the girl’s release. He said too much security presence could sabotage the efforts. It wasn’t clear when she would be released. The girl’s father, Nathan Sharibu, confirmed to The Associated Press he heard she was on her way to Dapchi. The head of a group set up for the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls, Bashir Manzo, also confirmed her release. “We got the news that she was on her way,” he said.
Many residents in Dapchi remained indoors and closed their businesses, fearing Boko Haram gunmen. “We have all been indoors since morning and no one has opened their shop because we can’t trust these Boko Haram people,” said trader Muhammed Musa. Boko Haram extremists stormed Dapchi village on February 19, abducting the schoolgirls. President Muhammadu Buhari, who welcomed the released schoolgirls to his residence Friday, had promised his government would beef up security around vulnerable schools. He also vowed to work for the release of others abducted by the extremists.
The Nigerian government denies that it paid a ransom or made a prisoner swap in exchange for the Dapchi girls’ freedom. The Dapchi school kidnappings are thought to have been carried out by a Boko Haram splinter group aligned with the Islamic State group. The mass abduction caused a fresh round of outrage in Nigeria, and evoked painful memories of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in 2014.