Boko Haram releases kidnapped schoolgirls, but holds on to Christian hostage who refused to renounce faith

(Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)Some of the newly-released Dapchi schoolgirls board a plane in Maiduguri, Nigeria March 21, 2018.

Boko Haram has freed 104 out of 110 girls who were abducted from a school in Yobe State last month, but the insurgents have not released a Christian student who reportedly refused to renounce her faith.

At least 104 of 110 girls abducted from Dapchi Government Science and Technical School on Feb. 19 were released by Boko Haram early Wednesday morning, according to Sahara Reporters. But five of the girls were said to have died while in custody of the insurgents, and one Christian student, Leah Sharibu, is still in the hands of her abductors.

Reports have indicated that the insurgents held on to Sharibu because she refused to renounce her faith and embrace Islam.

Nigeria's federal government reported that Boko Haram had returned 106 hostages, comprising of 104 schoolgirls from Dapch, one other girl and a boy.

The release of the schoolgirls had raised concerns about ransom payment to the insurgents, but the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, insisted that no ransom was paid, and no prisoner swap had taken place.

The federal government had reportedly paid millions of euros last year to secure the release of 83 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the same terror group four years ago.

The information minister had claimed that the only condition given by the kidnappers was that the girls would be returned to the place where they were abducted. However, Lai said that the kidnappers did not drop off the girls in a single place but in various locations and from there, went to their various homes.

After their release, the girls reportedly spent only a few hours in Dapchi with their parents before they were handed over to a federal government delegation in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had vowed that he would ensure the release of Sharibu. In a statement issued by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, on Thursday, the president stressed that he is dedicated to the Sharibu's freedom as he was when all 110 schoolgirls were still in the custody of the militants.

"The Buhari administration won't yield in endeavors to convey Leah Sharibu securely back home to her family as it has done for other young girls after she was kept down by the terrorists over her decision, as detailed, not to convert from Christianity to Islam," the statement read.

"President Buhari is completely conscious of his obligation under the constitution to ensure all Nigerians, regardless of faith, ethnic foundation or geopolitical location and won't evade this responsibility," it continued.

The statement went on to say that Sharibu "won't be abandoned" and that the president is assuring her family that "he will continue to do whatever he can to guarantee that they likewise have cause to cheer with their little girl soon."

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