ABUJA, Nigeria, March 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A would-be female suicide bomber arrested in Cameroon was not one of the 219 schoolgirls missing from Chibok in northeast Nigeria but she had also been abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, officials said on Wednesday.
The capture of the 12-year-old girl in northern Cameroon carrying explosives raised hopes she might be able to shed some light on the fate of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago after she claimed to be one of the missing girls.
In the past year the Islamist militants have stepped up cross-border attacks and suicide bombings, many carried out by young girls, raising fears that the missing schoolgirls could be used as weapons.
But three parents of the Chibok secondary school students were shown photos on Wednesday of the arrested girl and another woman who was captured with her and informed authorities that she was not from their community.
“(The parents) have confirmed that the girl and the woman do not fit the description of any of the missing daughters from Chibok,” Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, chief executive of the non-government organisation Murtala Muhammed Foundation, said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The Murtala Muhammed Foundation, which is involved in the search for the schoolgirls, was passed the photos to show the parents by Cameroon authorities.
Muhammed-Oyebode said the girl had told Nigerian government officials by Tuesday that she was a 12-year-old girl from Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria and was abducted when the town was overrun by Boko Haram a year ago.
However she said the identification process using the photos still went ahead to lay rest to any claims that the girl was one of the missing schoolgirls whose abduction sparked international outrage and the campaign #bringbackourgirls.
She said her organisation had informed the Nigerian government of its willingness to continue to pursue the matter, and to provide support for the captured girl and woman, who was described as aged 35 with two children.
“These girls and women are merely victims, and must be treated as such by the society,” said Muhammed-Oyebode.
“They have already undergone grave violence at the hands of their Boko Haram captors. We must ensure that they are not made to undergo additional violence at the hands of their compatriots.”
Garba Shehu, spokesperson for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the pair had been handed over to the Nigerian military and were now on their way back to Nigeria.
Military sources said the girl and the woman were arrested last Friday, both carrying explosives, after being stopped by local self-defence forces in Limani near the border with Nigeria that has been the target of frequent suicide bombings recently.
Joint operations between Nigeria and neighbouring countries have managed to drive Boko Haram from many of its strongholds in the past year but the Islamists have stepped up attacks.
Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of boys and girls in northeast Nigeria over seven years, turning them into cooks, fighters, sex slaves, even forcing them to carry out suicide attacks on their own villages, according to an Amnesty International report last year.
But the Chibok abduction remains the most high-profile.
Muhammadu Buhari, who defeated former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan in a 2015 election, ordered a new investigation into the kidnappings in January. (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; )