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Tue Jun 28 09:49:20 SAST 2016

Nigeria checking if would-be bomber is captured Chibok girl

AFP | 27 March, 2016 14:27
File photo.
Image by: SUSANA VERA / REUTERS

Nigeria is waiting for the green light from Cameroon to verify a would-be suicide bomber's claim that she is one of 276 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.

With less than a month before the two-year anniversary of the brazen kidnapping which shook the world, 219 students from the northern town of Chibok are still missing and there are few signs that the Nigerian government is making progress on securing their release.

The young woman was one of two would-be suicide bombers arrested in northern Cameroon on Friday, with Nigeria planning to send a delegation including Chibok parents to the Cameroonian capital Yaounde to meet her.

"As soon as we establish permission to allow access, then we'll put them on whatever flight is available," presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told AFP.

They will "verify whether (she)... is one of the missing school girls abducted in Chibok," Shehu said, stressing there was no guarantee she was telling the truth.

"Some of the reports I got indicated the two girls are not even 15, perhaps about 10 years old each," said Shehu. If the reports proved correct, the girls would be too young to be among those abducted who were secondary school age.

"We are not ruling out anything at this stage."

The two young women were each wearing a 12-kilo (26-pound) belt of explosives.

The "Bring Back Our Girls" advocacy group said Sunday that the Nigerian government needed to move quickly to verify her claim.

"If the claim turns out to be true, (it) brings hope that the girls are alive," spokesman Rotimi Olawale told AFP.

"The Chibok community is hopeful that this will be a breakthrough," said Olawale.

"But it brings a sense of urgency because Boko Haram may be using these girls as suicide bombers."

Olawale said the youngest Chibok girl captured by Boko Haram was 16 years old.

"The details are sketchy," Olawale said. "We expect that in the next 48 hours the government will have gotten to the bottom of this."

In total, 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014 as they were preparing for end-of-year exams in the remote northeastern town.

Boko Haram has carried out suicide bombings often using girls as part of its armed campaign to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

Some 20,000 people have been killed in the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno state -- where Chibok is located -- according to a report for the World Bank that puts the cost of destruction at $5.9 billion.

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