Boko Haram returns Nigerian kidnapped schoolgirls - witnesses

Boko Haram has released the 76 Chibok school girls kidnapped. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Boko Haram returns Nigerian kidnapped schoolgirls - witnesses

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: A plane carrying scores of Nigerian schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram militants on Wednesday has taken off for the capital Abuja, a Reuters witness reported.
Information Minister Lai mohammed, speaking in Maiduguri, said 105 people had been rescued so far, two of whom were not students.
He said the government was still negotiating with Boko Haram to release the remaining Chibok schoolgirls, 100 of whom remain unaccounted for. “Not for one moment has there been a break in the negotiations with this armed insurgency,” he said.

Boko Haram militants rolled into Dapchi in nine vehicles in the morning and the girls were left in the center of town. As terrified residents emerged from their homes, the extremists said “this is a warning to you all,” resident Ba’ana Musa told The Associated Press.
“We did it out of pity. And don’t ever put your daughters in school again,” the extremists said. Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language.
Nigeria’s government said 101 of the 110 schoolgirls, most of them Muslim, had been confirmed freed and that the number “would be updated after the remaining ones have been documented.”
“No ransoms were paid,” the information minister, Lai Mohammed, said in a statement. The girls were released “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country, and it was unconditional.”
A decision against military “confrontation” was part of the agreement, he added.
Bashir Manzo, whose 16-year-old daughter was among those kidnapped during the Feb. 19 attack, confirmed that his daughter was among those freed.
“As I speak to you there is jubilation in Dapchi,” he said.
The mass abduction and the government response brought back painful memories of the 2014 attack on a boarding school in Chibok. Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls, and about 100 of them have never returned. Some girls were forced to marry their captors, and many had children fathered by the militants.
The latest mass abduction is thought to have been carried out by a Boko Haram splinter group aligned with Daesh, one that has criticized the leader of the main Boko Haram organization for targeting civilians and has focused instead on military and Western targets.
Residents in Dapchi fled on Wednesday morning upon hearing that Boko Haram vehicles were headed toward the town.
“We fled but, from our hiding, we could see them and surprisingly, we saw our girls getting out of the vehicles,” Umar Hassan told the AP.
“They assembled the girls and talked to them for some few minutes and left without any confrontation,” said another resident, Kachallah Musa.
The girls were at the general hospital in Dapchi “and the counselors are there with them,” the information minister told reporters. As with the released Chibok schoolgirls, “they will be quarantined and be counseled before they go back to their schools.”
Their release came a day after an Amnesty International report accused the Nigerian military of failing to heed several warnings of the imminent attack last month. The military has called the report an “outright falsehood.”
Nigeria’s government celebrated the girls’ release. “GREAT NEWS from Dapchi, Yobe State. Thank God for the safe return of our sisters. Alhamdulillah!” an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Bashir Ahmad, said on Twitter.


Women take fall in Nobel scandal for man’s alleged misdeeds

Updated 43 min 15 sec ago
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Women take fall in Nobel scandal for man’s alleged misdeeds

  • 18 women have accused Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is married to a poet who is a member of the academy
  • Sex-abuse scandal has forced the ouster of its first-ever woman head and tarnished the reputation of the coveted prize

STOCKHOLM: Thousands of protesters called Thursday for the resignation of the secretive board that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature after a sex-abuse scandal linked to the prestigious Swedish academy forced the ouster of its first-ever woman head and tarnished the reputation of the coveted prize.
The ugly internal feud has already reached the top levels of public life in the Scandinavian nation known for its promotion of gender equality, with the prime minister, the king and the Nobel board weighing in.
On Thursday evening, thousands of protesters gathered on Stockholm’s picturesque Stortorget Square outside the headquarters of the Swedish Academy, which has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901, to demand all of its remaining members resign. Parallel demonstrations were planned in Goteborg, Helsingborg, Eskilstuna, Vasteras, and Borgholm.
The national protests have grown out of what began as Sweden’s own #MeToo moment in November when the country saw thousands of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing from all walks of life. It hit the academy when 18 women came forward with accusations against Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is married to Katarina Frostenson, a poet who is a member of the academy.
Police are investigating the allegations, which Arnault denies, but the case has exposed bitter divisions within the academy, whose members are appointed for life, and given rise to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some members.
The turmoil began when some of the committee’s 18 members pushed for the removal of Frostenson after the allegations were levied against her husband, who runs a cultural club that has received money from the academy. In addition to sexual misconduct, Arnault is also accused of leaking Nobel winners’ names for years.
After a closed-door vote failed to oust her, three male members behind the push — Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund — themselves resigned. That prompted Horace Engdahl, a committee member who has supported Arnault, to label them a “clique of sore losers” and criticize the three for airing their case in public.
He also lashed out at Sara Danius, the first woman to lead the Swedish Academy, who was forced out last week amid criticism from male members of her handling of the scandal. Danius, a Swedish literature historian at Stockholm University, had cut the academy’s ties with Arnault and hired investigators to examine its relationship to the club he ran with Frostenson. Their report is expected soon.
Supporters of Danius have described her as progressive leader who pushed reforms that riled the old guard.
At Thursday’s protests, many participants wore pussy-bow blouses like the ones worn by Danius. The high-necked blouses with a loosely tied bow at the neck have become a rallying symbol for those critical of the Swedish Academy’s handling of the case.
Birgitta Hojlund, 70, who traveled several hours to attend the protest, said despite Sweden’s progressive image, women still face inequality. “There are still differences, in wages and in honors and in professions,” she said, calling for the Swedish academy to be “recreated from the bottom, and balance male and female.”
“They’re pushing women away, saying that sexism is OK, in this academy,” agreed Torun Carrfors, a 31-year-old nurse. “They should leave, and we need to have new ones.”
Last week, Frostenson announced she too was leaving the academy. On Thursday, a sixth member, writer Lotta Lotass, said she was also planning to step down, citing backlash from tradition-minded male members of the board who questioned her credentials, the Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported.
The departures of the highly respected women have given rise to a flurry of protests on social media.
“Feminist battles happen every day,” wrote Swedish Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who posted a picture of herself last week wearing a white pussy-bow blouse like those worn by Danius. Other Swedish women also posted pictures of themselves in the blouses as anger grew over Danius’ departure, including Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhall, actress Helena Bergstrom and fashion designer Camilla Thulin.
The public controversy has also given rise to concerns about the Swedish Academy losing its credibility and tarnishing the reputation of the Nobel Prize.
“The Swedish Academy is an internationally acclaimed organization and it should stand for all the right values and at the present moment I don’t think they do,” said Carsten Greiff, a 32-year-old business developer, attending Thursday’s protest. “It’s dragging the international view of the Nobel Prize in the dirt.”
King Carl XVI Gustaf said the resignations “risked seriously damaging” the academy, while Prime Minister Stefan Lofven emphasized the academy’s importance to Sweden and urged its members to “restore faith and respect.”
“Trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged,” the Nobel Foundation said of the situation, while demanding the group take action to restore that trust.
Despite the resignations the academy, founded by King Gustav III in 1786, does not currently have a mechanism for its lifetime-appointed board members to step down.
The king — the academy’s patron, who must approve its secret votes— said Wednesday in the wake of the recent events he wants to change rules to allow resignations.
“The number of members who do not actively participate in the academy’s work is now so large that it is seriously risking the academy’s ability to fulfill its important tasks,” he said.