Girls' families hopeful, divided on Boko Haram swap

By Olarewaju Kola, Thursday, May 15, 2014

The abductions have triggered global outrage, with several countries joining Nigerian efforts to rescue the kidnapped girls

The abductions have triggered global outrage, with several countries joining Nigerian efforts to rescue the kidnapped girls

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – Families in Nigeria's northeastern Borno State have breathed a sigh of relief after identifying their daughters in a recent video released by their captors, the dreaded Boko Haram group, but they are divided on whether the government should free detained militants in exchange for the schoolgirls' release.

"We have identified most of the girls. Now there is hope because we know they are not dead," Yusuf Adams, uncle to one of the abducted girls, told Anadolu Agency. 

On Monday, Boko Haram militants released a video showing scores of the missing girls, who were abducted last month in the town of Chibok.

In a 17-minute video, Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau – clad in his trademark military fatigues – offers to exchange the abducted girls for Boko Haram militants held by Nigerian authorities.

The abductions have triggered global outrage, with several countries joining Nigerian efforts to rescue the kidnapped girls.

Simeon Mainam, for one, is thrilled that his daughter, Hauwa, has been identified from the video.

"We are happy that they are still alive, contrary to rumors that they had been killed or sold off to Cameroon, Chad and Niger," he told AA.

"Unlike before, our people are now beginning to exercise patience," Mainam said. "The discovery has brought us relief and we will continue to pray for the return of our daughters."

Although Esther Mutali failed to identify her daughter, Dokas Yakubu, from the video, she nevertheless remains hopeful.

"At least we know now she's alive," she told AA. "We were hearing they [the girls] had been moved to somewhere."

-Bring them back-

Mainam supports the idea of holding talks with Boko Haram to ensure the abducted girls' safe return.

"The military should not use force, so our daughters will not get killed," he said.

"If exchanging our daughters with the Boko Haram in prison will bring back our girls, the government should do it," the distressed father added.

Adams, for his part, believes the solution to the problem still lies in the hands of the government.

"Whatever the government intends to do to bring back our daughters is welcome," he said.

But that, to him, does not include releasing detained Boko Haram members.

"Even if the government releases all the Boko Haram prisoners and Boko Haram releases our daughters, this will not end the problem," said Adams.

"It is not good to even negotiate with Boko Haram. I don't support the Boko Haram request, even though I want my niece back," he added.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language, first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and corruption.

The group later became violent, however, after the death of its leader in 2009 while in police custody.

In the five years since, the shadowy sect has been blamed for numerous attacks – on places of worship and government institutions – and thousands of deaths.

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