*Sixty-three women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month in Nigeria escaped from their captors and have returned to their burnt village, a security source and a local vigilante fighting the militant group said.
The hostages were seized from the Kummabza village in northern Borno state on June 18 after a four-day invasion of the village by Boko Haram insurgents. The militants killed 30 men and burned the entire village.
According to CNN, the Islamist terrorist group is still believed to be holding about 200 schoolgirls abducted April 14 from their hostels in the town of Chibok — a case that drew international outrage and prompted a global campaign for their release.
Boko Haram has been active as a violent group since 2009 and has killed Nigerians, both Christian and Muslim, at rates frequently exceeding 100 people weekly.
The name “Boko Haram” translates to “Western education is sin” in the local Hausa language. The militant group is trying to impose strict Sharia law across Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.
The female hostages escaped Friday while their captors left their camp to launch an attack against the military and police in the nearby town of Damboa, said Bukar Kyari, a local vigilante fighting Boko Haram in Maiduguri.
Soldiers overwhelmed the insurgents, forcing them to mobilize all their men and leave the abducted women in the camp, Kyari said.
“The women seized that rare opportunity to escape when they realized they were alone in the camp,” Kyari said. “But we still have five women, including a nursing mother, missing.”
News of the escape was slow to emerge due to trouble with telecommunication towers in the area damaged by previous Boko Haram attacks.
Boko Haram has recently intensified abductions of women in northeastern Borno state, where its five-year insurgency is largely concentrated.
When a group of women and girls abducted in November was later rescued from Boko Haram, some were pregnant. Others had been forcibly converted to Islam and married off to their kidnappers.
The terror group abducted an estimated 276 girls April 14 from a boarding school in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. Dozens escaped, but more than 200 girls are still missing.
Since then the insurgents, seemingly galvanized by the attention, have stepped up the frequency and brazenness of the attacks on villages in the region. Other girls have been kidnapped, but in lesser numbers.
The Nigerian government has come under fire for not doing enough to find the girls. About a month ago the government tried to stop organized protests for the abducted girls, then backtracked and allowed the protests.