Two Nigerian women abducted as schoolgirls by a jihadi militant group nine years ago have been rescued, the West African nation’s military has said.
One of the two women had one-year-old baby, while the second gave birth to her second child days after gaining her freedom.
Hauwa Maltha and Esther Marcus were among 276 schoolgirls abducted in April 2014 from the Government Girls Secondary School in the village of Chibok by Boko Haram militants.
They were rescued in April by Nigerian soldiers and reunited with their families in the north-eastern Borno state, according to Maj Gen Ibrahim Ali, who leads the Nigerian military operation against the extremist violence experienced in the north-east region for more than a decade.
The mass kidnapping sparked global outrage and led to the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign.
More than 20 of the girls have regained their freedom in the past year, but nearly 100 are still missing.
Maltha and Marcus, both 26, were forcibly married to extremists while in captivity, Maj Gen Ali told journalists in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, on Thursday.
His comments echoed concerns of parents and activists about the maltreatment of the girls by Boko Haram, whose name in the local Hausa language means “Western education is forbidden”.
Both girls were married three times as one husband after another was killed during clashes with the Nigerian military.
The girls’ return brought excitement and also sadness to many in the Chibok community. As one local leader said: “It has made the memories fresh for the parents that their children are still missing.”
Several of the girls have returned home in recent months mostly after escaping the Sambisa Forest, a known hideout for the extremists.
Most of those who returned had babies after either being forced into marriage or after losing hope that they would ever regain their freedom, their parents and the freed girls have said.
Since the girls’ abduction in 2014, Boko Haram has grown in reach and influence.
Most of its members now operate as a more brutal faction backed by the so-called Islamic State group.
More than 35,000 people have died and around two million have been displaced by the extremist violence in Nigeria, according to the UN Development Programme.