MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Soldiers interrogating captured Boko Haram suspects have found one of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly three years ago, along with her baby, Nigeria's military said Thursday.
Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped by the insurgents from a government boarding school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014, a mass abduction that shocked the world and brought Boko Haram international attention. Most of the girls remain in captivity.
In May, one girl escaped. In October, the government negotiated the release of 21 more. Another girl was freed in November in an army raid on an extremist camp in the Sambisa Forest.
Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman identified the latest girl to be freed as Rakiya Abubakar and said she has a 6-month-old baby. He said her identity was discovered when soldiers were interrogating some of more than 1,000 suspects detained in recent weeks of army raids on the Sambisa Forest.
The military released a photograph showing Abubakar with mournful eyes, her head covered by a white scarf, and clutching the baby wearing a white beanie cap.
A statement from Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari said her recovery "raises renewed hope that the other captured girls will one day be reunited with their families, friends and community."
Similar optimism was expressed by the Bring Back Our Girls movement — spawned by the failures of the government of Buhari's predecessor. The government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan initially claimed the mass abduction never happened and was a plot to discredit his administration.
"We remain highly hopeful that the rest of our girls will be rescued and reunited with their families," the movement said in a statement, noting Sunday will mark 1,000 days of captivity for the girls.
Nigeria's government announced troops two weeks ago destroyed Boko Haram's last stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, and Buhari declared the extremist group was finally "crushed."
That raised questions about the whereabouts of the other Chibok girls, believed held in the forest. Some 196 remained missing before Thursday's discovery, though some of the freed girls have said several in their group have died from things like malaria and snakebite.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau issued a video last week to contradict Buhari's assertion "the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide." Shekau declared the war was just starting and urged his fighters to keep killing, bombing and abducting people.