A woman held captive by the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram since 2014 called her father last week claiming she had been “rescued” from her captors by the Nigerian Army, Reuters reported on Monday.
Halima Ali Maiyanga, 23, phoned her father on January 28 and “told him she had been rescued by the Nigerian army, but [her father] Maiyanga said he did not know her exact whereabouts or if she was alone or with more of her kidnapped former classmates,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on February 1.
A Nigerian army spokesman denied that Halima’s alleged rescue from Boko Haram occurred in a statement to the press on February 1.
“We do not have any of the Chibok girls in our custody, so if they are not with us we have nothing to confirm again,” Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff Lucky Irabor told reporters on Monday according to the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard.
The U.S. broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) reported on January 29 that an “unknown number” of girls kidnapped in April 2014 from a government-run secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, “are believed to have escaped” after the Nigerian army launched an offensive in the Sambisa Forest in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state. A stronghold for the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, the Sambisa Forest is the location where the 276 abducted schoolgirls were believed to be held.
A former chairman of the Chibok community named Hosea Adama communicated with VOA via messaging app on January 29, saying that Chibok was celebrating the news of at least one girl’s release from captivity.
“People are happy, yes it is true. Even if it’s one (girl), the whole village will jubilate over it,” Adama told the broadcaster.
“Up till now, we don’t know who is involved and how many. Even the soldiers, people contacted them, they don’t have the right information. They are still profiling,” he added.
Halima Ali Maiyanga was kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her sister, Maryam, according to Reuters’ February 1 report. The two sisters were among the few Muslims in the group of mainly Christian schoolgirls abducted on April 14, 2014. The Nigerian government negotiated with Boko Haram to secure the release of about 100 Chibok schoolgirls between 2016 and 2017.
Maryam told Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday that she was freed in 2016, but not through such a negotiation.
Maryam said she and her sister, Halima, were held in captivity together until 2014 when they both married Boko Haram members and moved to separate parts of the Sambisa Forest. Maryam said her husband decided to help her escape in 2016 “because he did not want their son to grow up in the forest,” adding that she did not inform Halima of the plan.
“I was afraid. I didn’t see her before I left,” she said.
Maryam’s husband “accompanied her out of the forest,” but she said she has not seen him since he was arrested by the Nigerian military at the time of her escape. Nigerian soldiers eventually found Maryam along with her ten-month-old baby in Borno State’s Gwoza district in November 2016.
“I always believed I would see my sister again one day,” Maryam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on February 1. “When I heard the news, I was jumping up and down. I was very happy. I can’t wait to see her,” she added.