Nigeria’s top military officer on Monday said authorities had found the location where more than 200 schoolgirls are being held by Boko Haram Islamist militants but said the army has ruled out any use of force to try to rescue the girls.
Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, who was cited by the state news agency as the source of the claim, would not give more information on their whereabouts.
Badeh later told reporters in the capital Abuja, “The good news for the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you."
He added that the army has ruled out any use of force to try to rescue the girls.
“We can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back,” Badeh said. He spoke to thousands of demonstrators who marched to the defence ministry headquarters in the capital. Many were brought in on buses, indicating it was an organised event.
“We want our girls back. I can tell you we can do it. Our military can do it. But where they are held, can we go with force?” he asked the crowd. People shouted back, “No!”
“If we go with force what will happen?” he asked.
“They will die,” the demonstrators said.
“Nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it is doing. We know what we are doing,” he insisted.
A total of 276 students were abducted on April 14 from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok. While some 53 of the girls managed to escape, police say 223 remain captive.
The military and government have faced national and international outrage over their failure to rescue the girls.
President Goodluck Jonathan was forced this month to accept international help. American planes have been searching for the girls and Britain, France, Israel and other countries have sent experts in surveillance and hostage negotiation.
Jonathan’s reluctance to accept offered help for weeks is seen as unwillingness to have outsiders looking in on what is considered a very corrupt force.
Soldiers have told AP that they are not properly paid, are dumped in dangerous bush with no supplies and that the Boko Haram extremists holding the girls are better equipped than they are.
Some soldiers have said officers enriching themselves off the defence budget have no interest in halting the five-year-old uprising that has killed thousands.
Soldiers near mutiny earlier this month fired on the car of a commanding officer come to pay his respects to the bodies of 12 soldiers who their colleagues said were unnecessarily killed by the insurgents in a night-time ambush.
The military also is accused of killing thousands of detainees held illegally in their barracks, some by shooting, some by torture and many starved to death or asphyxiated in overcrowded cells.
A Boko Haram video has shown some of the girls reciting Quranic verses in Arabic and two of them explaining why they had converted from Christianity to Islam in captivity. Unverified reports have indicated two may have died of snake bites, that some have been forced to marry their abductors and that some may have been carried across borders into Chad and Cameroon.
Boko Haram – which means “Western education is sinful” – believes Western influences have corrupted Nigerian society and want to install an Islamic state under strict Sharia law, though the population 170 million people is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-26