A would-be suicide bomber who was arrested in Cameroon is not one of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped nearly two years ago from the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok, a non-profit announced on Wednesday.
The Murtala Muhammed Foundation said three representatives of the Chibok schoolgirls’ parents reviewed photographs of the girl at its offices but she and a woman also detained “do not fit the description of any of the missing daughters from Chibok”.
Nigeria’s government told the MMF on Tuesday afternoon the girl was 12 years old and was originally from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, but was abducted 70 kilometres (43 miles) away in Bama when Boko Haram overran the town.
The woman identified herself as a 35-year-old mother of two children, the foundation’s chief executive, Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, said in a statement. The pair were arrested last Friday carrying explosives in Cameroon’s Far North region.
But the authorities in Cameroon and Nigeria over the weekend cast doubt on the young girl’s claim to be from Chibok because of inconsistencies in her age. The youngest of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok was 16 in 2014, according to the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group. Muhammed-Oyebode said they were “yet to ascertain how the girl came to describe herself as one of the missing Chibok girls”.
Cameroon’s presidency has said the child was found to be heavily drugged, which is consistent with Boko Haram’s deployment of children as suicide bombers. “The identity of the girl notwithstanding, the MMF has informed the Nigerian government of its willingness to continue to pursue the matter, and is willing to provide the captured girl and woman any support they may require,” said Muhammed-Oyebode.
“These girls and women are merely victims, and must be treated as such by… society. They have already undergone grave violence at the hands of their Boko Haram captors. “We must ensure that they are not made to undergo additional violence at the hands of their compatriots.”
Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of young women and girls since the start of its Islamist insurgency in 2009, forcing them to become sex slaves or human bombs.
The Islamic State group affiliate seized 276 schoolgirls in Chibok on the night of April 14, 2014. Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath but 219 are still being held.