More than 60 young women abducted last month by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria have reportedly escaped their captors, but more than 200 schoolgirls are still held by Islamist rebels.
Local vigilante Abbas Gava said on Sunday he had "received an alert from my colleagues ... that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home" late on Friday.
A high-level security source in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, confirmed the escape.
Gava, a senior official of the local vigilantes in Borno who are working closely with security officials, told journalists the young women escaped when their captors left to fight.
"They took the bold step when their abductors moved out to carry out an operation," he said.
Clashes took place between the Islamists and the army late on Friday after an attack by the insurgents in the town of Damboa, where 53 of them and six soldiers were killed, the army had said.
The rebels attacked barracks and a police station while most of the troops were out on patrol in surrounding villages.
Spokesmen for the armed forces or the government could not be reached on Sunday for comment.
More than 200 still missing
Activists of the Bring Back Our Girls movement tried to march on the presidential palace in Abuja on Sunday to pressure the government over the fate of the girls kidnapped in Chibok, in Borno, on April 14. They were asked by security forces to turn back.
"It's 83 days today that the girls have been abducted," activist Aisha Yesufu told the press. "We have been coming out for 68 days and nobody has really listened to us."
Of the 276 girls seized in April, 57 have escaped and 219 are still missing.
Villagers from the town where Boko Haram abducted the girls appealed to the United Nations on Friday to intervene because of the worsening violence in their region.
Timeline: Boko Haram
The community claimed militants were running amok in their area, seemingly with impunity.
A state of emergency imposed in Borno and neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa in May last year forced its fighters out of urban centres.
But that has come at the expense of protecting people in the countryside, where attacks have increased dramatically, almost on a daily basis, analysts say.
Amnesty International claimed in May that military commanders in Borno had advance warning of the Chibok abduction but could not muster troops to send.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-07-07