Parents say 234 girls missing after mass kidnap by Islamic militants
Published 21/04/2014 | 16:13
Up to 234 girls are missing from a Nigerian school attacked last week by Islamic extremists - significantly more than the 85 reported by education officials, parents told the state governor today.
The higher figure came out a week after the kidnappings when the Borno state governor insisted a military escort take him to the town. Parents told the governor that officials would not listen to them when they drew up their list of names of missing children and the total reached 234.
Security officials warned governor Kashim Shettima that it was too dangerous for him to drive to Chibok, 80 miles from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and birthplace of the Boko Haram terrorist network blamed for the abductions.
State education spokesman Musa Inuwo Kubo and the principal of the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School initially said that 129 science students were at the school to sit a physics exam when the abductors struck a week ago.
Twenty-eight pupils escaped from their captors between last Tuesday and Friday. Then another 16 were found to be day scholars who had returned to their homes in Chibok before the attack. That left 85 missing students, according to school officials.
The latest confusion comes after the military reported last week that all but eight of those abducted had been rescued - but then retracted the claim the following day.
Security sources have said they are in "hot pursuit" of the abductors, but so far they have not rescued any of the girls and young women, aged between 16 and 18.
Parents and other town residents have joined the search for the students in the Sambisa Forest which borders Chibok town and is a known hideout for the militants.
The kidnappings are believed to have been carried out by Nigeria's Islamic extremist rebels, known as Boko Haram.
Boko Haram - the name means "Western education is sinful" - is violently campaigning to establish an Islamic Sharia state in Nigeria, whose 170 million people are about half Muslim and half Christian.
It has been abducting some girls and young women in attacks on schools, villages and towns but last week's mass kidnapping is unprecedented. The extremists use the young women as porters, cooks and sex slaves, according to Nigerian officials.
Boko Haram was on a rampage last week, staging four attacks in three days that began with a massive explosion during rush hour at a busy bus station on Monday morning in Abuja, the capital in the centre of the country, which killed at least 75 people and wounded 141.
Nigeria's military and government had claimed to have the militants on the run and contained in a remote north east corner on the border with Cameroon.
But extremist attacks have increased in frequency and become ever deadlier this year with more than 1,500 people killed so far, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.