West & Central Africa

Boko Haram free kidnapped Muslim schoolgirls, but keep Christian captive

A view shows girls hostel at the school in Dapchi in the northeastern state of Yobe, where dozens of school girls went missing after an attack on the village by Boko Haram, Nigeria February 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ola Lanre

Boko Haram militants freed the majority of the 110 kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirls on Wednesday (21 March), but are still holding captive a Christian girl who refused to convert to Islam.

“I don’t know why they brought us back but they said because we are children of Muslims. One [girl] is still with them because she is a Christian,” Khadija Grema, one of the released girls, told journalists.

A relative of another of the freed girls stated that she had said the Christian girl was still being held because she had refused to convert to Islam.

The girls were abducted on 19 February 2018 from a government Science and Technical Secondary School (High School) in the town in north-east Nigeria. Around 70 were returned to Daptchi in the early hours of 21 March. Government officials have stressed authorities did not pay a ransom to secure their release.

Boko Haram have previously conducted targeted abductions of schoolchildren, including in Chibok in 2014. Although many of the “Chibok girls” have been released, over 100 are still thought to be held by Boko Haram. Those who were released stated that during their captivity they were forcibly converted to Islam and married to Islamist militants.