An offshoot of the Nigeria-based Boko Haram extremist group staged a brazen kidnapping in February, abducting 110 girls from a boarding school in the town of Dapchi in northeastern Yobe state. The insurgents, members of the Islamic State in the West African Province (ISWAP), released 104 of the students in March. Five others died in captivity and 15-year-old Leah Sharibu—the only Christian among the group—remains a hostage. Her rescued schoolmates said the militants did not release her because she refused to convert to Islam.
In Cameroon, authorities blamed suspected armed separatists for two school kidnappings. In November, armed gunmen kidnapped and later returned 80 students and two teachers from a Presbyterian school in the restive Northwest region. Authorities rescued another nine children and their teacher, also kidnapped in November from a school in the Southwest. Unrest erupted in the two regions in 2016 when English-speakers in the bilingual country complained of marginalization. The government’s violent crackdown on demonstrations resulted in multiple armed groups springing up across the regions. —O.O.