Nigeria kidnappings: will Boko Haram release schoolgirls?

Deal to free more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April is in doubt after latest abductions and attacks

Campaigns demand the return of Nigeria's abducted girls
(Image credit: Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Boko Haram militants are believed to have abducted at least 30 children from a village in north-east Nigeria, despite an alleged truce with the country's military.

The latest abduction comes as the Nigerian press reports that more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls are expected to be handed over by the Islamist organisation today.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that the militants have captured more than 500 women and girls since it began its violent insurgency in 2009. The largest single abduction occurred when the 276 schoolgirls were taken from Chibok in April.

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Earlier this month, the head of the Nigerian armed forces announced that a truce has been reached with the Islamist militant group and that they had agreed to release the Chibok girls. The announcement was greeted with widespread scepticism in Nigeria, with most commentators doubting that the girls will ever be released.

Some even suggested that the announcement was merely an election ploy by President Goodluck Jonathan. "It's interesting the timing comes as Jonathan is about to announce he wants to run for a second term. Is it by sheer coincidence?" the spokesman for the main All Progressives Congress, Lai Mohammed told Reuters.

Boko Haram have yet to comment on the deal, but so far it has "let its weapons do the talking" as another 60 women and girls were kidnapped the week after the deal was struck, according to CCN. Since then, dozens of attacks have taken place across northern Nigeria.

However, the government says Boko Haram may not be behind the recent attacks, instead it has blamed other criminal groups which are "exploiting the chaos of its insurgency".

Officials in Chad who mediated the deal to free the Chibok girls insist they will be released, despite a breakdown in the truce, according to Reuters. Oby Ezekwesil, organiser of the "Bring back our girls" campaign told Reuters she remained "cautiously optimistic" that girls would be released but also "extremely anxious" about their fate. "If it happens, it would be the best news in decades," she said.

But, even if a deal has been struck with a spokesperson from Boko Haram, it is unlikely he would have been able to speak for the entire organisation. "Boko Haram is deeply fractured. The Nigerian government has had a... difficult time identifying a Boko Haram representative who could make compromises and guarantee the entire group will observe them," according to the global intelligence company Stratfor.

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