A Christian schoolgirl remains in the captivity of the Islamist terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria this week after refusing to convert to Islam, it has emerged.
Leah Sharibu, 15, was one of 110 girls kidnapped by the terrorist organization after they stormed the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Nigeria.
A majority of the girls have now been freed, but Sharibu’s refusal to convert to Islam means that she remains in the group’s captivity. Most of the girls were released in the middle of the night under an agreement with the military that they would withdraw some of their soldiers, although five girls were killed during the release.
“My daughter is alive, but they wouldn’t release her because she is a Christian,” her father Nathan Sharibu said last week. “They told her they would release her if she converted, but she said she will never become a Muslim. I am very sad, but I am also overjoyed because my daughter did not denounce Christ.”
The mass kidnapping is further evidence of the group’s resurgence across Nigeria and other African countries. The group is known for kidnapping Christian girls and converting them to Islam through coercion, often threatening them with rape or other violent and tortuous act.
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari contends that the government did not pay the terrorists a ransom for the girl’s release, claiming that security forces reached the release agreement through “back-channel efforts” and with the help of “some friends of the country.”
Buhari has previously made a number of deceptive statements about Boko Haram’s strength, such as that his military had “technically won the war” against the terrorist organization and that the group would no longer carry out “conventional attacks” against security forces or civilians.
However, the organization has staged numerous resurgences over the past two years that have claimed the lives of hundreds of people. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Boko Haram terrorists have already killed at least 120 civilians in the year 2018, including more than 30 on Easter Sunday alone.
As a result, Buhari recently asked for additional military funding to help defeat the group, and last week vowed to grant amnesty to members who hand over their weapons and end the violence.
“[Since its foundation in 2009], more than 20,000 people have been killed, thousands of girls, women, boys, and men have been abducted and children continue to be used routinely as so-called ‘suicide’ bombers,” the office noted in its recent report.