Islamist militants have freed scores of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, but some of the released students say five of their friends have died in captivity and another is still being held.
Dapchi resident Muhammad Bursari said his niece Hadiza Muhammed, another of the freed girls, told him the remaining student was still in captivity because she had refused to convert to Islam.
Witnesses said more than 100 of the 110 girls seized in Dapchi on February 19 were returned, though the Government issued a statement saying 76 girls had been freed in an “ongoing process”.
Nigeria had secured the release “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country,” Minister of Information Lai Mohammed said in a statement, without elaborating.
“For the release to work, the Government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option,” he said.
‘Don’t ever put your daughters in school again’
As terrified residents emerged from their homes, the extremists said “this is a warning to you all”, resident Ba’ana Musa said.
“We did it out of pity. And don’t ever put your daughters in school again,” the extremists said.
Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language.
The kidnapping of the girls aged 11 to 19 was the biggest mass abduction since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014 — a case that triggered international outrage.
Commentators feared the Dapchi girls had been taken for ransom, after Boko Haram received millions of euros for the release of some of the Chibok girls last year.
“No ransom was paid to them to effect this release,” Mr Mohammed said.
“The only condition they gave us is not to release [the girls] to the military but release them in the town of Dapchi without the military presence.”
The Dapchi abduction has piled pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 promising to crack down on Boko Haram’s nine-year-old insurgency and could face the voters again next year.
Mohammed Dala said he had found his 12-year-old daughter in a crowd of the girls in the centre of town.