Rescued Chibok girl Amina Ali: A 'quiet and humble' student

AFP , Thursday 19 May 2016

Amina Ali
Amina Ali, the rescue Chibok school girl, sits during a meeting with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential palace in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, May. 19, 2016. (Photo: AP)

Amina Ali, who this week became the first of 219 abducted Chibok schoolgirls to be found, had undergone a dramatic transformation since she was seized by Boko Haram nearly two years ago.

"She was completely changed. She had become very thin and awkward," Blamadu Lawan, the vice-principal of the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, told the BBC.

Lawan, who said he identified her when she was brought back to her home town of Mbalala, near Chibok, after being found on Tuesday, remembered a "quiet and humble girl".

"She didn't used to say much and now she looks motherly," he told the broadcaster.

A female neighbour of the family described her as "a darling of the neighbourhood", quick to help with household chores and keep the family compound clean.

"She always wore a smile on her face and hardly quarrelled with any child in our area. This is why she kept many friends among the children of the neighbourhood," the neighbour told AFP.

Amina and her elder brother were the only surviving children of Muslim parents Ali and Binta and lived in a mud-brick home with a corrugated iron roof in the mainly Christian market town.

Eleven of her siblings died and shortly after Amina, then aged 17, was kidnapped from the school on April 14, 2014, her father died, said Ayuba Alamson Chibok, a local teacher who knows the family.

Ali was one of 18 parents -- 16 men and two women -- who have died waiting for their daughters to return, Yakubu Nkeki, of the Chibok Abducted Girls Parents group, told AFP in Chibok in March.

Binta Ali said in a statement read to the media after she met President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Thursday she was "heartbroken and devastated" at Amina's disappearance.

The 11 children she lost died at the ages of four and five, she said.

The neighbour said mother and daughter were close. "She was always by her mother's side," she said. "I wish her father were alive to share this joy of the rescue of his daughter."

Little else has been divulged about Amina, who in photographs released by the military showed her looking thin and tired after her ordeal.

Manaseh Allan, a Chibok youth leader, said Lawan knew her from the school register as Aisha Ali, with multiple names common in the area.

The BringBackOurGirls campaign group has also given her name as Amina Ali Nkeki, while the military on Wednesday first identified her as Falmata Mbalala, which it later corrected.

"She was being careful when she earlier gave the name as Falmata Mbalala, which was quoted by the army," Chibok community leader James Bako was quoted as saying by the Daily Trust newspaper.

"She wanted to be sure she was safe after leaving the Sambisa forest before revealing her true identity."

News that Amina had been found has reverberated well beyond the remote towns of Chibok and Mbalala in Borno state, with the kidnapped schoolgirls a symbol of the brutal conflict.

When she was discovered she was carrying a four-month-old baby named Safiya and pointed vigilantes and soldiers to a man she said was her husband.

Nigeria's military described the man, whom they have identified as Mohammed Hayatu, as a "suspected Boko Haram terrorist".

Boko Haram has repeatedly kidnapped women and young girls during the conflict, forcing them to marry Islamist fighters, cook, clean, become sex slaves and even suicide bombers.

But there have been suggestions Hayatu himself may equally be a victim of the violence, with men and young boys also seized and forcibly conscripted into Boko Haram's ranks.

Reports have claimed he was originally from the town of Mubi, in neighbouring Adamawa state, which was overrun by the militants in 2014 as they captured swathes of territory across the northeast.

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