When a Nigerian military spokesman claimed on April 28 to have rescued nearly 300 women and girls held captive by members of the Boko Haram Islamist group, hopes soared that they might be the schoolgirls kidnapped a year ago from a dormitory that put the name of their small town, Chibok, on the global map.
Boko Haram has kidnapped over 2,000 women and children in the past 16 months, according to a recent report from Amnesty International, but the plight of the schoolgirls abducted in one raid, on April 14, 2014, garnered the world’s sympathy. The founder of the Bring Back Our Girls movement, former Nigerian Education Minister Obiageli Ezekwesili, was relentless in her campaign to make sure the Chibok girls were not forgotten, and she recruited international figures from First Lady Michelle Obama to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai to promote the cause.
So fervent is the desire to see the girls back and alive, the disappointment that these rescued women were not from Chibok was overwhelming. Ezekwesili told TIME it was “profoundly heartbreaking” that the girls had not been found. “Yet that these girls and women who were also captives of those savages for God knows how long can now breathe the air of freedom is certainly victory.”
It’s a victory that has been a long time coming. When the Chibok girls were first kidnapped, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan was slow to respond, and the country’s hollowed-out military forces suffered several humiliating defeats. Those failures likely contributed to Jonathan’s defeat in the March presidential election. And while army spokesmen have claimed credit for a recent spate of gains, military support from neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger has been instrumental. Incoming President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to rebuild the army, but it will take years to recover from a decade of neglect and endemic corruption.
Despite the hopes and efforts of activists like Ezekwesili, the likelihood of finding all the Chibok girls is slim. Boko Haram founder Abubakar Shekau boasted that the girls had converted to Islam and been married off. Amnesty International also suggests that others might have perished as a result of the rigors of captivity, and–if the fate of several other Boko Haram escapees is a guide–they might have been used as sex slaves or forced to fight.
Nonetheless, the efforts to rescue the Chibok girls and all other Boko Haram abductees must continue, Ezekwesili says. “We can seize on [this] rescue to add more pressure on our government to spare no effort in finding our Chibok girls and all other abductees.”
‘History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone.’
JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE, addressing the U.S. Congress on April 29 during his weeklong visit to the U.S.; Abe did not explicitly apologize for Japanese conduct during World War II, as some U.S. lawmakers had called for, but expressed “eternal condolences” for American lives lost in the war
THE FASTEST TRAINS
A magnetic levitation passenger train set a world speed record of 375 m.p.h. (603 km/h) on a test track in Japan on April 21. Here are top operating speeds, in miles per hour, of some of the world’s other fastest trains:
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
Shanghai Maglev Train, China 268
TGV, France 199
AVE, Spain 193
Sapsan, Russia 155
Acela Express, U.S. 150
Muslim Brotherhood supporters protest three days after an Egyptian court sentenced ousted President Mohamed Morsi to 20 years in prison. The former leader, who was removed by the Egyptian military amid popular demonstrations nearly two years ago, was convicted on April 21 along with other Islamist leaders on charges arising from the killing of protesters in 2012. Amnesty International called the verdict a “travesty of justice.”
A team of Chinese researchers used a gene-editing technique in an attempt to genetically modify human embryos for the first time. The results raised ethical concerns among many in the scientific community about manipulating human DNA.
The gene-editing technique, CRISPR-Cas9, allows scientists to add or remove genetic material to alter cells. It has been used successfully to create new crop strains, stimulate biofuel synthesis and treat liver disease in mice.
Researchers in Guangzhou tried to modify a gene responsible for a blood disorder in human embryos. Many scientists say tampering with the human gene pool opens the door to eugenics, and they have urged a worldwide moratorium on such genetic manipulation.
The Chinese team could cut and replace mutated DNA in only a small number of cells, indicating that the clinical use of human gene editing is a long way off. But several other Chinese researchers are reportedly making further attempts to edit genes in humans.
The global wage gap between men and women, according to a U.N. report that found female labor-force participation had “stagnated” since 1990
King Salman of Saudi Arabia appointed his Interior Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as his new heir and named his son, Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, as second in line, effectively determining the kingdom’s line of succession for another generation.
Australia recalled its ambassador to Indonesia after two of its citizens, convicted of drug smuggling, were executed there by firing squad on April 29 along with six other prisoners from Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria. President Joko Widodo had denied international pleas for clemency.
The U.K. votes in a general election on May 7, with polls predicting neither Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives nor the opposition Labour Party will win an overall majority. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon may play kingmaker after a surge of support.
This appears in the May 11, 2015 issue of TIME.
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