World Bulletin/News Desk
Local authorities in Nigeria's northern Borno State announced Wednesday that four abducted schoolgirls had escaped from the militant Boko Haram group after more than 40 days in captivity.
"The latest report reaching us is that, instead of 53, those that have escaped are now 57, and those remaining are 164 and not 168 as before," Musa Elijah, director of personnel and management in the Chibok local council, told a meeting in Abuja on the humanitarian response to the crisis.
"This is out of the 221 girls that were abducted," he said.
Education commissioner Musa Inuwa told Reuters by telephone the four had been reunited with their parents since then, but he declined to give further details of their escape or say when it happened.
A senior Borno state official said it was not clear when they escaped, and it may even have been several weeks ago. The parents had not contacted authorities when the girls returned.
"It was a little after the initial escapes but we doubt it was a recent escape," he said.
On April 14, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in Chibok, located on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest, loading scores of them onto trucks before driving away unchallenged.
The exact number of abducted schoolgirls, however, still remains dogged by controversy.
Elijah called on the government to help rebuild the school, parts of which were torched when the militants abducted the girls.
Nigerians remain divided over whether or not the government should accept a prisoner swap, offered by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a recent video.
Government officials, however, have appeared inconsistent on the way forward to rescue the girls.
While Information Minister Labaran Maku recently said the government would explore "all options," presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said they would not swap the girls for Boko Haram prisoners.
Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff Alex Badeh said Monday that authorities knew the girls' whereabouts but were being cautious regarding planned rescue operations so as not to endanger the lives of the captives.
The military has been bruised by criticism at home and abroad of its failure to protect the girls and its slow response to the hostage crisis. Badeh was quoted in the state news agency as saying the military was doing all it could to secure the girls' release.
"No matter the criticisms, the Nigerian Armed Forces will continue to do what it had sworn to do," he said. "You are aware that we have international partners working with us to release our girls and our girls will be released."Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2014, 23:53