Nigerian troops have found two former schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram eight years ago, the military has said, freeing some of the last victims of the 2014 Chibok abduction.
The two women each carried babies on their laps as they were presented by the military on Tuesday, eight years after members of the armed group stormed their school in the Chibok community in the northeast Nigerian state of Borno in April 2014.
The mass kidnapping – of them and 274 others – sparked international outrage.
Major-General Christopher Musa, the military commander of troops in the region, told reporters the girls were found on June 12 and 14 in two different locations by troops.
“We are very lucky to have been able to recover two of the Chibok girls,” Musa said.
Dozens of Boko Haram members stormed the Chibok girls’ boarding school in 2014 and packed 276 pupils, aged 12-17, at the time into trucks in the group’s first mass school abduction.
Fifty-seven of the girls managed to escape by jumping from the trucks shortly after their abduction while 80 were released in exchange for some detained Boko Haram commanders following negotiations with the Nigerian government.
In the recent releases, one of the women, Hauwa Joseph, was found along with other civilians on June 12 around Bama after troops dislodged a Boko Haram camp, while the other, Mary Dauda, was found later outside Ngoshe village in Gwoza district, near the border with Cameroon.
On June 15, the military said on Twitter that they had found one of the Chibok girls named Mary Ngoshe. She turned out to be Mary Dauda.
“I was nine when we were kidnapped from our school in Chibok and I was married off not long ago and had this child,” Joseph told reporters at the military headquarters.
Joseph’s husband and father-in-law were killed in a military raid and she was left to fend for herself and her 14-month-old son.
“We were abandoned, no one cared to look after us. We were not being fed,” she said.
Thousands of Boko Haram fighters and families have surrendered over the last year, fleeing government bombardments and infighting with the rival Islamic State West Africa Province.
The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced 2.2 million more since 2009.
Dauda, who was 18 when she was kidnapped, was married at different times to Boko Haram fighters in the group’s enclave in the Sambisa forest.
“They would starve and beat you if you refused to pray,” Dauda said about life under Boko Haram.
She decided to flee and told her husband she was visiting another Chibok girl in Dutse village near Ngoshe, close to the border with Cameroon.
With the help of an old man who lived outside the village with his family, Dauda trekked all night to Ngoshe where she surrendered to troops in the morning.
“All the remaining Chibok girls have been married with children. I left more than 20 of them in Sambisa, she said. “I’m so happy I’m back.”
After the Chibok school mass abduction, other armed groups carried out several mass abductions and deadly attacks on schools in the northeast.