Boko Haram continues kidnapping spree

NGA140615AU003Abuja – Outrage, frustration and fear reigned Thursday in the aftermath of the Boko Haram abduction of almost 100 school girls earlier this week with families of the missing accusing the government of lying about finding some of their children.

“How could they have deceived us all along?” said Abdul Dapchi, 27, whose two sisters were among the missing.

On Monday, militants from Boko Haram, which loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden," raided the Government Girls Science Technical College in Dapchi in the northeastern Yobe State.

Police and the education ministry initially denied that the students were abducted. On Wednesday, the Nigerian military said it rescued 76 girls and recovered two students’ bodies.

Then the Yobe state Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, who visited Dapchi town on Thursday, said, contrary to claims by the Nigerian army, that no girl was rescued. Also on Thursday, the Nigerian government admitted some girls were missing but has not disclosed how many after claiming all the girls had been rescued.

In the confusion, which is reminiscent of what followed the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, parents grieved.

Modu Goniri, 45, a civil servant and father of two girls kidnapped Monday, said he was terrified over what could be happening to his daughters – escaped and rescued Chibok students have recalled sexual abuse, forced conversions to Islam and forced marriages during their captivity.

"I can't sleep since my daughters have gone missing," Goniri said.

He added that he was outraged that Nigerian officials had let Boko Haram kidnap more girls.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted that he would do everything he could to bring back the girls: “I share the anguish of all the parents and guardians of the girls that remain unaccounted for. I would like to assure them that we are doing all in our power to ensure the safe return of all the girls.”

But parents now say they have yet to see their children. Goniri said the parents have counted 94 missing girls. And neither his nor other parents’ children he knows had been found.

“It’s not true that some girls were rescued," he said. "No one can actually say the whereabouts of the girls, they have disappeared completely without any trace.”

Geidam addressed parents Thursday afternoon at the school where the Boko Haram militants struck. He had no information suggesting that anyone knew about the whereabouts of the girls or whether they were rescued, said Goniri and others who attended the meeting.

Dapchi said the crowd of parents and relatives grew incensed when they realized that reports that the military had found some of the girls were likely false. “We were all angry,” he said.

The incident came four years after 276 girls were abducted from their school 170 miles away in the town of Chibok, sparking the viral Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

In 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015. Last year, the Nigerian army claimed the militants had been defeated in military terms, although not eliminated.

On Thursday, #BringBackOurGirls spokesperson Sesugh Akume said the chaos reminded her of four years ago when the Chibok girls were taken.

Hundreds of thousands of people called for action using #BringBackOurGirls on social media after that kidnapping, and then-first lady Michelle Obama held up a sign bearing the slogan. Hundreds of thousands also signed a Change.org petition calling for the girls to be returned.

She addd that the military deserves credit for finding the Dapchi girls if they had actually been found. But if the girls were still in the captivity of the militants, the government bore responsibility for raising and then dashing the hopes of anguished mothers, fathers and brothers

“There have been conflicting reports on the incidence among state and federal institutions and officials,” Akume said. “This draws dreadful and eerie similarities with the confusion that surrounded official communication following the abduction of our #ChibokGirls (in) 2014 who have remained with the Boko Haram terrorists for 1,410 days today.”

Photo: June 15, 2014 - Chibok, Borno state, Nigeria - Remains of vehicles burnt by Boko Haram near Chibok town, where 276 school girls were kidnapped by insurgents on the night of 14–15 April 2014.
Credit: Ameen Auwalii/ ARA Network Inc. (06/15/14)

Story/photo publish date: 02/22/18

A version of this story was published in USA Today.
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