By Jueseppi B.
CNN|Added on May 27, 2014
A top Nigerian official claims to know where the missing schoolgirls are located, as Arwa Damon reports.
LAGOS, Nigeria — A top Nigerian military official said Monday that the government knows the whereabouts of several hundred kidnapped girls but cannot reveal their location and cannot use force to rescue them, according to the Web site of the Ogun state television service.
“The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you,” Air Marshal Alex Badeh, the government’s chief of defense staff, was quoted telling a group of visitors at his office in the capital, Abuja. He reportedly told the group, “Just leave us alone, we are working to get the girls back.”
Badeh’s comments could not be independently confirmed but were reported by Ogun, Al Jazeera and other major TV channels in Nigeria. They marked the first time that a Nigerian official has revealed having any information about the location of the girls, whose abduction six weeks ago by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram created an international uproar.
Nigerian forces have been searching for the missing girls with help from U.S. and other Western experts, as well as aerial surveillance provided by U.S. drones. Until now, officials have said they believe the girls are probably being hidden somewhere in the vast Sambisa forest in northeast Nigeria, but they have not hinted at suspecting a specific location.
There have been unconfirmed reports in the past week that Nigerian officials were close to making some agreement with Boko Haram in which they would release the girls in exchange for the government freeing some captured members or their relatives. The government denied the reports, with senior officials saying they would not negotiate with the terrorist sect.
It was difficult to know how specific Badeh intended to be in his statement, which appeared aimed more at reassuring his visitors — a group of Nigerians concerned about security issues — that the military was doing its job but would not use force to try and rescue the girls for fear of endangering their lives.
“We want our girls back. I can tell you that our military can and will do it, but where they are held, can we go there with force?” he was quoted by Ogun as saying. “Nobody should say Nigerian military does not know what it is doing; we can’t kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”
The government has come under intense public criticism for failing to locate and rescue the girls, who were abducted from a remote village school in Borno State on April 15. Women’s rights groups have held daily protests in the capital, and a social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, has continued to draw wide support.
Badeh expressed concern that the military was being unfairly criticized and defended its efforts to fight the Islamist militants. He said it was a difficult mission because the adversaries are homegrown “brothers,” rather than foreign enemies. Many Boko Haram fighters are young, jobless Muslims lured by Boko Haram’s message of creating a pure Islamic state.
“We are not happy at all, because we are killing our own kinsmen and we are killing mostly the youths,” Badeh said.“This war should not be fought by the military alone, but by all Nigerians.” He asked the public not to “disparage” the military, because “you don’t have another one.”
American Media Has Moved On/Forgotten. The World Has Not
Nigerian military says location of girls known, but wary of using force
LAGOS – Nigeria’s military knows where the more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram are but has ruled out using force to rescue them, the state news agency quoted Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh as saying on Monday.
“The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you,” Badeh was quoted as saying. “But where they are held, can we go there with force? We can’t kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”
Most officials think any raid to rescue them would be fraught with danger and probably not worth the risk that the girls would be killed by their captors – an Islamist group that has shown a degree of ruthlessness in killing civilians.
Since the girls were captured seven weeks ago, at least 470 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria, in various locations, according to a Reuters count.
Britain’s BBC reported on Monday that a deal was close to being agreed to rescue the girls in exchange for Boko Haram prisoners – a demand the group had made public – but that it was called off at the last minute.
“This government cannot negotiate with criminals and … will not exchange people for criminals. A criminal will be treated like a criminal,” he was quoted by local media as saying.
Nigeria accepted help from the United States, Britain, France and China last week and around 80 U.S. troops have started arriving in neighboring Chad to start a mission to try to free the girls. Surveillance drones are scanning the Sambisa forest, where parents say the girls were last sighted.
Gunmen killed four Nigerian soldiers on Monday in an ambush on a military patrol in central Plateau state, about 110 miles southeast of Jos, a local government official said, although it was not confirmed if this was Boko Haram.
The Islamists have made inroads into Plateau state in the past month, setting off a bomb in Jos last Tuesday that killed 118 people, although it failed to trigger the kind of widespread communal violence to which Plateau has been prone for a decade.
Over the years Boko Haram has slowly morphed from a radical clerical movement opposed to Western cultural influences to a violent network of Islamist fighters and associated criminal gangs that kill, kidnap and extort money.
The insurgents initially attacked security forces and government officials after they launched their uprising in the northeast city of Maiduguri in 2009. When Jonathan ordered an offensive a year ago to flush them out, civilians formed vigilante groups to help out, which then made them targets too.
Thank you Reuters.
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