KANO, Nigeria – Nigerian parents lashed out on Tuesday, April 29, at the government’s failure to rescue scores of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists two weeks ago, as families agonized over the uncertain fate of the hostages.
“May God curse every one of those who has failed to free our girls,” said Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were among over 100 students abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in the Chibok area of northeastern Borno state.
The government is “showing indifference to [a] monumental disaster,” he charged. (READ: Nigeria parents demand answers after military says hostages freed)
The attack was one of the most shocking in Boko Haram’s 5-year Islamist uprising, which has claimed thousands of lives across northern and central Nigeria.
The outrage that followed the mass abduction has been compounded by disputes over figures and criticism of the military’s search-and-rescue effort.
Borno officials have said that 129 girls were kidnapped when gunmen stormed the school after sundown on April 14 and forced the students – who are between 12 and 17-years-old – onto a convoy of trucks. Officials said 52 have since escaped.
Locals, including the school’s principal, have rejected those numbers, insisting that 230 students were snatched and that 187 are still being held hostage.
Mark told Agence France-Presse that his wife has hardly slept since the attack, lying awake at night “thinking about our daughter.”
Boko Haram’s name translates as “Western education is forbidden,” and it has repeatedly attacked schools during an insurgency aimed at creating a strict Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
The Islamists have set schools on fire, massacred students in their sleep and detonated at university campus churches.
President Goodluck Jonathan has faced scathing criticism over the attacks and the pressure has mounted since the Chibok kidnappings.
Parents, who said they had little confidence in the military search effort, have scoured the bushlands of the remote region, pooling money to buy fuel for motorcycles and cars to conduct their own rescue effort.
Pogo Bitrus, leader of a Chibok elders group, told Agence France-Presse that locals have received various tips concerning the whereabouts of the hostages, with some reports saying they have been taken across borders into Cameroon and Chad.
“The free movement of the kidnappers in huge convoys with their captives for two weeks without being traced by the military which claims to be working diligently to free the girls is unbelievable,” he said.
The military deployed thousands of additional troops to the northeast last year as part of an offensive aimed at crushing Boko Haram, but security experts say Nigeria lacks the troops needed to fully cover the region.
There has been no independent confirmation of the girls being trafficked across borders and some of those who escaped said the hostages were taken to Borno’s Sambisa Forest area, where Boko Haram has well-fortified camps.
The military on Friday said it had killed 40 insurgents near Sambisa Forest in an operation aimed at finding the kidnappers. – Rappler.com