Abduction of high school girls from Dapchi: 104 releases and many questions

A hundred schoolgirls, out of the 110 kidnapped on February 19 by Islamist militants Boko Haram in Dapchi, northeastern Nigeria, were brought back on Wednesday, March 21 to their school by their captors.

According to the latest report, at least 104 teenagers among them at least one boy were released on Wednesday morning.

They were reportedly captives of the Boko Haram faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnaoui. A release that raises many questions, less than a year from the presidential election in Nigeria.

The girls arrived in Dapchi around 8am local time on Wednesday morning in nine vehicles. They were dropped near the school where they were abducted a little over a month ago by members of Boko Haram.

The city has exulted, a resident told AFP that the insurgents were taking photos with people, asking them not to flee. Several adolescent girls reported never having been abused during their captivity. Some were even kept in a room where they could cook.

The question of counterparties

Less than a year from the presidential election in Nigeria, the circumstances of this release raise many questions. By announcing openly, ten days ago, “favoring negotiation rather than force to free Dapchi’s young girls,” said Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, broke with the muscular methods of his executive. Sign that these kidnappings and more generally the security issue are now very political.

On Wednesday, Information Minister Lai Mohammed insisted that the negotiations had been facilitated by friendly countries and that the release of teenage girls had been “unconditional”. It remains to be seen with which counterpart.

On his Twitter account, the Nigerian presidency stressed that no ransom had been paid, but the electoral calendar suggests that the Buhari administration, on the contrary, wanted to accelerate the discussions to avoid any complication unless a year of the presidential election.

According to observers, the speed with which the girls were released would, moreover, displace the trail of a prisoner exchange. After the celebrations of this release, the possible payment of ransom is in turn fearing to some a multiplication of mass abductions of teenage girls in the coming months.

al-Barnaoui pointed the finger

According to various eyewitnesses, those released on Wednesday were held captive on the islands of Lake Chad, an area controlled by the Boko Haram faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnaoui.

Son of the founder of the Islamist group, appointed by the group EI to lead the jihadist movement in West Africa, he seceded from Abubakar Shekau in 2016, accusing him of the murders of Muslim civilians and the use of young girls as human bombs.

Active on the border with Niger and on the contours of Lake Chad, his faction prefers to gain the support of the local population to establish its power and thus attack the military or state objectives.

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