MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Soldiers interrogating captured Boko Haram suspects have found one of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly three years ago, along with her baby, Nigeria’s military said Thursday.
Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped by the insurgents from a government boarding school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014. In May, one of the girls escaped. In October, the government negotiated the release of 21 more. Another girl was freed in November in an attack on an extremist camp in the Sambisa Forest.
Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman identified the latest girl to be freed as Rakiya Abubakar and said she has a 6-month-old baby. He said her identity was discovered when soldiers were interrogating some of more than 1,000 suspects detained in recent weeks of army raids on the Sambisa Forest.
Nigeria’s government announced that troops two weeks ago destroyed that last stronghold of Boko Haram, and President Muhammadu Buhari declared the extremist group was finally “crushed.”
That raised questions about the whereabouts of the other Chibok girls, believed held in the forest. Some 196 remained missing before Thursday’s discovery, though some of the freed girls have said that several in their group have died from things like malaria and snakebite.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau issued a video last week contradicting the government, declaring that the war was just starting and urging his fighters to keep killing, bombing and abducting people.
Nigeria’s government has been criticized over its treatment of the freed girls, who have been sequestered in Abuja, the capital, allegedly for trauma counseling and rehabilitation.
The freed girls insisted on being taken to Chibok for Christmas, but they were kept in the home of a local legislator, prevented from attending Christmas service and did not see their parents until the next day.
Boko Haram’s seven-year Islamic uprising has killed more than 20,000 people, spread across Nigeria’s borders, forced. 2.6 million from their homes and created a massive humanitarian crisis in which the U.N. says 5.1 million people face starvation in northeast Nigeria.