More than 60 women and girls kidnapped by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in June escaped late Friday night, BBC reported Monday.
According to BBC sources, the women and girls managed to escape after their captors went out to attack a military base near Damboa on Friday. The attack, carried out late Friday night, led to the deaths of 53 Boko Haram fighters and six Nigerian military officers.
The 60-some women and girls are among 68 abducted from Damboa by Boko Haram in June. The extremist group, which seeks to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the country’s north, is still holding more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April from the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok, near Borno.
Abbas Gava, an officer with a Borno state vigilante group, told journalists that he had received news that 63 women and girls had successfully made their way back home. “They took the bold step when their abductors moved out to carry out an operation,” he added.
The news of the escape comes at a time of increased international pressure on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to take stronger action to find and free the schoolgirls abducted in April. In a statement from Boko Haram after the girls' kidnapping, Abubakar Shekau, a man claiming to be the group’s leader, said that they were planning to “sell them off and marry them off,” led to an international outcry.
This sparked the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which saw the participation of a number of prominent international figures, including U.S. first lady Michelle Obama.
The Nigerian government has reportedly rejected Boko Haram's demands to release its fighters and relatives in exchange for the girls.
On Sunday, 50 members of the Bring Back Our Girls movement tried marching in portest to the presidential palace in the capital city of Abuja but were stopped by security forces.
“It’s 83 days today [since] the girls have been abducted,” activist Aisha Yesufu told the press. She alleged that even though their group had been coming out for the last 68 days, “nobody has really listened to us.”
Boko Haram has killed thousands of civilians and security forces since it launched its military operations to establish an Islamic state in 2009. A state of emergency has been in force in many parts of northern Nigeria since 2013.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the escaped women and girls were abducted.