4 Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Captors

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4 Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Escape Boko Haram Captors
A woman with a sticker on her head bearing the slogan 'Bring back our girls' marches for the release of the more than 200 abducted Chibok school girls in Lagos on May 29, 2014, during a demonstration by civil society groups and celebrities of the film and entertainment industries to press for the girls' release, seven weeks after their abduction by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, and on the occasion of Nigeria's Democracy Day. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed on May 29 total war against terrorism as the country's security forces stepped up efforts to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists 45 days ago. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28: Students from Midreshet Shalhevet High School for Girls protest outside the Nigerian consulate for more action to be taken to rescue the school girls kidnapped by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram In Nigeria on May 28, 2014 in New York City. More than 300 teenage girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok, Nigeria on April 15, 2014. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: French President Francois Hollande welcomes Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R) as the host of the security summit on Nigeria to discuss combating the dreaded Boko Haram militant group on May 17, Paris. Mustafa Sevgi-Anadolu Agency
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: French President Francois Hollande (L2) welcomes the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy (M) and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R2) as the host of the security summit on Nigeria to discuss combating the dreaded Boko Haram militant group on May 17, Paris. Mustafa Sevgi-Anadolu Agency
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: (L-R) Niger's president Mahamadou Issoufou, Cameroon's president Paul Biya, Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan, French president Francois Hollande, Chad's president Idriss Deby Itno and Benin's president Thomas Boni Yayi attend a joint press conference at the end of the Paris Summit for security in Nigeria, Saturday, May 17, 2014, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France.This African security summit is hold to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: Tchad's President Idriss Deby is escorted by French president Francois Hollande as he leaves the African security summit on May 17, 2014, at the Elysee palace in Paris, France. The African security summit is being held to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: (L-R) Niger's president Mahamadou Issoufou, Cameroon's president Paul Biya, Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan, French president Francois Hollande, Chad's president Idriss Deby Itno and Benin's president Thomas Boni Yayi attend a joint press conference at the end of the Paris Summit for security in Nigeria, Saturday, May 17, 2014, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France.This African security summit is hold to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: (L to R) Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan (R) speaks with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (C) prior a family photo during an African security summit on May 17, 2014, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. This African security summit is held to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
(LtoR) Niger's president Mahamadou Issoufou, Chad's president Idriss Deby Itno, Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan, France's president Francois Hollande, Cameroon's president Paul Biya, and Benin's president Thomas Boni Yayi pose for a photo during an African security summit to discuss the threat of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram to the regional stability, at the Elysee Palace in Paris on May 17, 2014. West African leaders met with French President Francois Hollande to bolster cooperation with Nigeria in its battle against Boko Haram Islamists after the abduction of 200 schoolgirls shocked the world. AFP PHOTO / ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 17: French President Francois Hollande (R) welcomes Cameroon's President Paul Biya (L) upon his arrival to an African security summit on May 17, 2014, at the Elysee palace in Paris, France. This African security summit is hold to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
Protestors hold placards as they demonstrate outside Nigeria House in central London on May 9, 2014, to demand the return of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram Islamist group. Nigeria's military had advanced warning of the April 14 attack by Boko Haram that led to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls but failed to take immediate action, Amnesty International said. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the kidnapped school girls by the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram, during a press availability at the US State Department in Washington, DC, May 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Protesters calling for the release of a group of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls gather outside Nigeria House on May 9, 2014 in London, England. 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school on 14 April, 2014 in the town of Chibok in north-eastern Borno state in Nigeria. The abductions have sparked protests around the world calling for the release of the girls who are being held by the militant group Boko Haram. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Soldiers walk to block the advancing civil society groups protesting the abduction of Chibok school girls during a rally pressing for the girls' release in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters to meet with military chiefs, to press for the release of more than 200 Chibok school girls abducted three weeks ago. Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria's embattled northeast, residents said on May 6, after the extremist group's leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month and said in a video he was holding them as 'slaves' and threatened to 'sell them in the market'. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of civil society groups shout slogans to protest the abduction of Chibok school girls during a rally pressing for the girls' release in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters to meet with military chiefs, to press for the release of more than 200 Chibok school girls abducted three weeks ago. Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria's embattled northeast, residents said on May 6, after the extremist group's leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month and said in a video he was holding them as 'slaves' and threatened to 'sell them in the market'. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Leader of Chibok community in Abuja Hosea Sambido (R) raises a newspaper reporting the death of two of the abducted Chibok school girls during a rally pressing for the girls' release in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters to meet with military chiefs, to press for the release of more than 200 Chibok school girls abducted three weeks ago. Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria's embattled northeast, residents said on May 6, after the extremist group's leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month and said in a video he was holding them as 'slaves' and threatened to 'sell them in the market'. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
One of the mothers of the missing Chibok school girls wipes her tears as she cries during a rally by civil society groups pressing for the release of the girls in Abuja on May 6, 2014, ahead of World Economic Forum. Members of civil society groups marched through the streets of Abuja and to the Nigerian defence headquarters to meet with military chiefs, to press for the release of more than 200 Chibok school girls abducted three weeks ago. Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria's embattled northeast, residents said on May 6, after the extremist group's leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month and said in a video he was holding them as 'slaves' and threatened to 'sell them in the market'. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman carries placard to press for the release of missing Chibok school girls during a rally by civil society in Lagos on May 5, 2014. Boko Haram on Monday claimed the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria that has triggered international outrage, threatening to sell them as 'slaves'. 'I abducted your girls,' the Islamist group's leader Abubakar Shekau said in the 57-minute video obtained by AFP, referring to the 276 students kidnapped from their boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, three weeks ago. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman stand beside children holding as members of Lagos based civil society groups hold rally calling for the release of missing Chibok school girls at the state government house, in Lagos, Nigeria, on May 5, 2014. Boko Haram on Monday claimed the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria that has triggered international outrage, threatening to sell them as 'slaves'. 'I abducted your girls,' the Islamist group's leader Abubakar Shekau said in the 57-minute video obtained by AFP, referring to the 276 students kidnapped from their boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, three weeks ago. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Women sit as they gather on May 8, 2014 during a meeting called by Congafen (the Coordination of the NGOs and Nigerien women associations) at the Youth house in Niamey, western Niger, to ask the United Nations (UN) to pursue in justice Boko Haram Islamists who are responsible for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls. Nigeria's president said today that Boko Haram's mass abduction of the schoolgirls in Nigeria would mark a turning point in the battle against the Islamists, as world powers joined the search to rescue the hostages. A few days before Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility in a video, saying his extreme Islamist group was holding the schoolgirls as 'slaves' and threatening to 'sell them in the market'. AFP PHOTO / BOUREIMA HAMA (Photo credit should read BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on April 3, 2014 in Maine-Soroa, eastern Niger, shows Nigerian children standing near a tent at a camp for refugees who fled the fighting between the Nigerian army and the Islamist rebels of Boko Haram. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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* School students were abducted by Islamists on April 14

* Military defends its efforts to free the girls

* Authorities fear a rescue attempt would lead to massacre (Adds details)

By Lanre Ola

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, May 28 (Reuters) - Four more of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month have escaped than previously thought, Nigeria's Borno state said on Wednesday, but 219 others were still missing and assumed held by the Islamist militants.

The girls were taking exams at a secondary school in the remote northeastern village of Chibok on April 14 when the Islamist gunmen surrounded it, loaded 276 of them onto trucks and carted them off, according to official figures.

Fifty-three escaped shortly afterwards, say authorities in Borno state, which lies at the epicenter of Boko Haram's insurgency.

Education commissioner Musa Inuwa told Reuters by telephone the four had been reunited with their parents since then, but he declined to give further details of their escape or say when it happened.

A senior Borno state official said it was not clear when they escaped, and it may even have been several weeks ago. The parents had not contacted authorities when the girls returned.

"It was a little after the initial escapes but we doubt it was a recent escape," he said.

The girls' abduction shone an international spotlight on the militants, whose violent struggle for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria has killed thousands and turned them into the biggest threat to security in Africa's top oil-producing state.

From being a religious movement opposed to Western culture - Boko Haram means "Western education is a sin" in the northern Hausa language - the sect has emerged as a well-armed insurrection with a growing thirst for blood.

Chief of Defense Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh said on Tuesday the military knew where the abducted girls were but ruled out a rescue by force for fear of endangering them.

Most officials think any raid to rescue them would run a high risk that the girls would be killed by their captors. Boko Haram has repeatedly showed ruthlessness in targeting civilians.

The military has been bruised by criticism at home and abroad of its failure to protect the girls and its slow response to the hostage crisis. Badeh was quoted in the state news agency as saying the military was doing all it could to secure the girls' release.

"No matter the criticisms, the Nigerian Armed Forces will continue to do what it had sworn to do," he said. "You are aware that we have international partners working with us to release our girls and our girls will be released."

Thirty-one security personnel were killed in an attack by heavily armed Boko Haram militants in the town of Buni Yadi on Monday. (Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Roche)
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