ABUJA The Nigerian army is moving into a Boko Haram forest stronghold to rescue more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls after one managed to flee the jihadists holding them for over two years, a provincial governor said on Thursday.
Shortly after escapee Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the governor of the northern state of Borno where Chibok town is located said army generals were already drawing up plans to rescue her classmates.
"We believe that in the coming weeks we shall recover the rest of the girls," Governor Kashim Shettima told reporters. "The military is already moving into the forest."
Previous military attempts to storm Sambisa have met with mixed success, with soldiers making significant in-roads but failing to finish off the Islamist militants after running into bands of well-armed guerrillas, mines and booby traps.
The #Bringbackourgirls activist group said Amina had told her rescuers the rest of the girls were under heavy Boko Haram guard in Sambisa.
Soldiers working with a vigilante group found Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki on Tuesday near Damboa, south of Maiduguri in the remote northeast where Boko Haram has waged a seven-year insurgency to set up an Islamic state.
Officials confirmed she was one of 219 girls abducted from the government school in Chibok in April 2014.
Buhari said Nigeria will do what it can to rescue the remainder of the more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls.
"Amina's rescue gives us new hope and offers a unique opportunity to vital information," Buhari said during a meeting with the teenager, her mother and officials after a presidential jet had flown her to Abuja.
He said the government would make it a priority that Amina, who showed Buhari her four-month old baby, can go back to school.
"Nobody in Nigeria should be put through the brutality of forced marriage, every girl has a right to education and their choice of life," he said. "Amina must be able to go back to school."
After Amina was discovered, the army said it had detained a suspected Boko Haram militant called Mohammed Hayatu, who said he was her husband.
On Thursday, the military released pictures of a clean-shaven man in a white shirt and cream trousers sitting beside Amina on a hospital bed holding the infant in his lap.
Buhari, 73, Nigeria's former military ruler, cradled Amina's baby in his arms during the meeting in the lavish presidential villa before posing for a group photograph.
Amina, who was accompanied by her mother, Binta, and Nigeria's defence minister and national security adviser, spent more than an hour with Buhari, who made crushing Boko Haram a pillar of his 2015 presidential election campaign.
More than 15,000 people have been killed and two million displaced in Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon during its insurgency.
Under Buhari's command, and aided by Nigeria's neighbours, the army has recaptured most territory once lost to Boko Haram. But the jihadist group, which last year pledged loyalty to Islamic State, still regularly stages suicide bombings.
Amina's mother said she feared she would never see her daughter again after the abduction, which had left her "broken and devastated".
Boko Haram captured 276 girls in a night-time raid on Chibok in April 2014, its most high-profile assault.
Some girls escaped in the melee but parents of the remaining 219 accused then-President Goodluck Jonathan of not doing enough to find their daughters, whose disappearance led to a wave of global outrage.
(Reporting by Lanre Ola, Ulf Laessing, Felix Onuah and Afolabi Sotunde; Writing by Ulf Laessing and Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Ed Cropley and Tom Heneghan)
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Published Date: May 20, 2016 03:00 am | Updated Date: May 20, 2016 03:00 am