YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — A teenager who surrendered before carrying out a suicide bombing attack in northern Cameroon has told authorities she was one of the 276 girls abducted from a Nigerian boarding school by Islamic extremists nearly two years ago, authorities said Saturday.
If confirmed the development would mark the first news of the missing Chibok girls in many months. It has long been feared that some are being used by their Boko Haram abductors to carry out such attacks given the growing number of young female suicide bombers.
The girl is about 15 years old and turned herself in before detonating her explosives, said Idrissou Yacoubou, the leader of a self-defense group in Limani, Cameroon.
“The girl looked tired, malnourished and psychologically tortured and could not give us more details about her stay in the forest and how her other mates were treated,” he said.
Cameroon has ordered investigations to determine the authenticity of the 15-year-old’s declarations, said Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the Far North region. Cameroonian authorities declined to identify her by name because she is a minor.
The office of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s military did not immediately respond to questions sent on a public holiday.
Authorities said Saturday along with the 15-year-old two other young women came with explosive belts — one was arrested and the other managed to flee back across the border into Nigeria.
In Chibok, a community leader said by telephone that the girl’s age could correspond to that of a 14-year-old who was the youngest among 276 girls abducted in the early hours of April 15 from a government boarding school. Dozens of the girls managed to escape on their own within hours, but 219 remain missing.
The plight of the abducted girls drew international attention and prompted the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on social media.
Dozens of them were last seen in a Boko Haram video with extremist leader Abubakar Shekau who boasted they had converted to Islam and threatening to sell them off or marry them to his fighters.
There have long been suspicions that Nigeria’s home-grown Islamic extremist group is using captives as suicide bombers. It is not known how many thousands of other girls, boys and young men and women have been abducted by the group.
In recent months Nigeria’s military has reported freeing at least 3,000 people held captive by the insurgents. Most recently, the military said it rescued 829 hostages in raids Tuesday on several Boko Haram-held villages in the northeast. At the same time, there are reports of Boko Haram continuing to take dozens of new captives.
Associated Press writer Haruna Umar in Abuja, Nigeria contributed this report.
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