Children Reunite with Parents Lost in Nigeria Attacks

Seven children have been reunited with parents lost in the chaos of attacks in Nigeria’s northeastern Islamic insurgency but hundreds more remain alone, officials say of youngsters who have no idea if their families are alive or dead.

“There is this fear that some of those unaccompanied children might have lost their parents during the insurgents’ attack on their villages,” said Sa’ad Bello, the coordinator of five refugee camps hosting scores of lonely children in Yola, capital of Adamawa state.

He was optimistic that more reunions will come as residents return to towns the military has retaken from extremists in recent weeks. “There will be more reunions when normalcy fully returns,” he told The Associated Press in an interview this week.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the past year and more than 1 million people are displaced within Nigeria because of the 5-year insurgency, according to the Washington-based Council for Foreign Relations. Hundreds of thousands of others have sought refuge across borders.

Executive secretary Haruna Hamman Furo of the Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency said some children may have lost parents among thousands who fled into neighboring Cameroon, and officials are encouraging them to return home.

Bello said they have been able to reunite only seven children, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, but 138 remain alone.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday urged Boko Haram’s leaders “to end the destruction of so many lives and communities” and to immediately and unconditionally release hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls and boys.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to escalate the conflict with more attacks on Cameroon, in a video posted on YouTube.

“A man cannot be a Muslim without rebelling against democracy,” he said as Nigeria prepares for Feb. 14 presidential elections.