Rescued Chibok girl meets Nigerian president in capital

Reuters News
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Posted: May 19, 2016 7:30 AM

By Lanre Ola

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - A Nigerian schoolgirl rescued after over two years of captivity with Boko Haram militants met President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday amid hopes she can shed light on the fate of 218 other abducted Chibok girls.

Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki, who was flown in from the northeast regional capital Maiduguri two days after her rescue, wore a veil and multi-colored dress as security guards escorted her into Buhari's office in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

She was accompanied by her mother, Binta, and Nigeria's Minister of Defence and National Security Adviser.

Soldiers working with a civilian vigilante group found Amina on Tuesday near Damboa, south of Maiduguri. Officials confirmed she was one of 219 girls abducted from the government school in Chibok in April 2014.

She was found with her four-month-old baby while a "suspected Boko Haram terrorist" called Mohammed Hayatu, who said he was Amina's husband, was also detained, the army said.

Pictures released by the Nigerian military on Thursday showed the clean-shaven man in a white shirt and cream slacks sitting beside Amina on a hospital bed cradling the infant in his arms.

Amina's rescue should give a boost to Buhari, a former military ruler who made crushing the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency a pillar of his presidential campaign in 2015.

However, an assertion from activist group #Bringbackourgirls that the remaining abductees were under heavy Boko Haram guard in the Sambisa forest, the jihadists' final stronghold, will put pressure on him to send in rescue squads.

Boko Haram captured 276 girls in their night-time raid on Chibok, one of the most audacious assaults of a seven-year-old insurgency to set up an Islamic state in the north.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and 2 million displaced in Nigeria and neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Some girls escaped in the melee but parents of the remaining 219 accused then-President Goodluck Jonathan of not doing enough to find their daughters, whose disappearance led to a global campaign #bringbackourgirls.

Amina's mother last year spoke of her daughter's fear of Boko Haram but of her joy at attending school and doing well at her studies.

She told the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, a Nigerian non-profit organization researching a book on the Chibok girls, that she was not sure of the age of Amina, the youngest of her 13 children although only three survived their early years.

"She always sewed her own clothes," her mother said in the interview released to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by Aisha Oyebode of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation.

Binta said Amina's father died some months after his daughter was abducted.

"After Amina was kidnapped, only two (of our children) are left alive," she said, adding her son and daughter live in Lagos.

She said she constantly thought of her lost daughter, who had always helped her around the house.

"(My son) said I should take it easy and stop crying," she told the Foundation. "He reminded me that I am not the only parent who lost a child."

(Reporting by Lanre Ola, Ulf Laessing and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani; Editing by Ed Cropley and Tom Heneghan)