The Nigerian Army says it has rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria, where the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has established a stronghold camp.
It is not yet clear if any of the rescued girls are the Chibok girls, who were kidnapped by the terrorists over a year ago on April 14. The Nigerian military has come under heavy criticism in the last year for pulling false alarms, whether with claims that it had reached ceasefire agreements, killed Boko Haram’s leader, or discovered the missing girls. The army was noticeably cautious today (April 28) in tweeting the news about the rescue mission, and Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade told CNN that the operation to clear the forest was ongoing.
The kidnapping of the nearly 300 girls from their school was undoubtedly the turning point in raising awareness, both at home and abroad, of Boko Haram’s campaign in Nigeria. While some of the girls escaped, more than 200 have remained missing.
Their plight spawned the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, led by former education minister Oby Ezekwesili and supported by celebrities and public officials around the world, including at the White House.
It also was likely a factor in Goodluck Jonathan’s failure to win reelection to the Nigerian presidency. His government was seen as both impotent and incompetent as it reacted slowly and defensively to intensifying calls for the girls’ rescue.
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader, says combatting Boko Haram is one of his top priorities. But it won’t be easy, and even if the scourge is dealt with resolutely, the effects of the insurgents’ six-year rampage in Nigeria’s north will linger.