#BringBackOurGirls Two Years Later: Teenage Girl Says She Escaped Boko Haram
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now to another important international story. On Friday night, three teenage girls crossed from Nigeria into Cameroon with the evident intention of becoming suicide bombers. According to news account, one girl ran for help, another panicked and surrendered and the third escaped back to Nigeria. The girl who cried for help said she is 15 years old, and she also told authorities that she was one of more than 200 girls abducted by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram from a Nigerian boarding school nearly two years ago. If confirmed, this would be the first concrete report in months on what may have happened to those missing girls. It's long been feared though that the girls were being used by Boko Haram to carry out such attacks. Joining us now is Moki Kinzeka. He is a reporter with Cameroon State Radio who has been reporting on this story. Moki, thanks so much for speaking with us.
MOKI KINDZEKA: You're welcome.
MARTIN: Have there been any updates since these initial reports? For example, is there any additional confirmation that this girl is in fact one of the 300 - nearly 300 girls kidnapped two years ago?
KINDZEKA: In fact, the governor of the far North region of Cameroon ordered investigations to be carried out to get into the authenticity of the declarations made by this teenage girl. From the name the girl gave that the media was not given, they confirmed she may be a member - or one of those who were kidnapped by Boko Haram. The girl said she was about 15 - between 15 and 16 years old now. When they were kidnapped in 2014, the youngest among the girls was about 13 to 14 years. She may have been the youngest of the girls kidnapped from Chibok.
MARTIN: Can you tell us what was the girl's condition when she was detained?
KINDZEKA: They told me the girl looked tired, psychologically tortured and could not answer questions for a long time. She looked battered. That is why when she got to Cameroon, the first thing she did was actually rushed to the nearest woman who was by her and surrendered and was crying for help.
MARTIN: There had been these reports that the suicide bombers being sent into Cameroon are young women. Do you have any sense of how many of these attacks there have been?
KINDZEKA: There have been about 100 suicide-bombing attacks in Cameroon. And about 95 percent of those attacks were orchestrated by young girls. About 95 percent of the girls died in the suicide bombings. This is the first case of a woman from the Sambisa Forest caught in Cameroon testifying that she was part of the Chibok girls.
MARTIN: NPR has reported this week that the Nigerian military seems to be making inroads against Boko Haram. Does it seem that way from your perspective?
KINDZEKA: Honestly, since the new president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, took over, there have been inroads in the fight against Boko Haram. You know, the joint forces fighting against the Boko Haram insurgency - from Cameroon, from Nigeria, from Chad and from Niger, they have organized raids on the border with Nigeria where the Boko Haram activists have been operating. Honestly, we have seen the results. Many of those have been arrested, many have been killed and about 2000 people have been freed from Boko Haram strongholds. The supply routes to the Boko Haram strongholds have been completely cut off. And that is why Boko Haram has been using suicide bombers now because they cannot organize large-scale attacks. If there is this additional commitment from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, Boko Haram in the next one year - I mean, at the most - should be history.
MARTIN: That's Moki Kindzeka. He's a reporter with Cameroon State Radio, who's been joining us by phone from Cameroon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.