File photo shows Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed (Photo by AFP)
The Nigerian government says the military operation against Boko Haram will continue even though the Takfiri militant group released several of girls who had been held captive for more than two years.
Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Thursday that Boko Haram’s release of 21 girls who had been kidnapped in the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014 would not change the status quo regarding Abuja’s fight against the terrorist group.
The announcement came hours after officials announced the release of 21 girls by the Boko Haram militant group.
A local source claimed that the girls had been swapped for four Boko Haram prisoners held in the recently liberated northeastern town of Banki, which borders Cameroon.
The Nigerian minister said the release of the girls was not linked to any alleged agreement between the government and Boko Haram, stressing that Abuja had not swapped any militant prisoner for the Chibok girls.
Of the total of 276 girls that Boko Haram kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok in April 2014, about 60 had managed to escape. The government has been under immense pressure to secure the release of the remaining captives.
A campaigning group for the girls, known as Bring Back Our Girls, said Thursday that the identity of the girls had yet to be confirmed.
In August, Boko Haram released a video purportedly showing some of the girls and demanding the release of comrades in exchange for the freedom of the abductees. A masked member of the group speaking in the footage claimed some of the girls were still alive, and that the others had been killed in airstrikes carried out by the Nigerian air force on the Boko Haram hideout.
Boko Haram’s seven-year militancy has killed around 20,000 people in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries.