World News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Nigerian abducted girls 'located'

Published 26/05/2014 | 23:37

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Air Marshal Alex Barde speaks during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls (AP)

Nigeria's military has located nearly 300 school girls abducted by Islamic extremists but fears using force to try to free them could get them killed, the country's chief of defence said.

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Air Marshal Alex Barde told demonstrators supporting the much criticised military that Nigerian troops can save the girls.

But he warned: "We can't go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."

He spoke to thousands of demonstrators who marched to defence ministry headquarters in Abuja, the capital. Many were brought in on buses, indicating it was an organised event.

Asked by reporters where they had found the girls, he refused to say.

He told the crowd: "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?"

People roared back: "No!"

"If we go with force what will happen?" he asked.

"They will die," the demonstrators said.

Mr Barde said no one should criticise the military.

"Nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it is doing. We know what we are doing," he insisted.

Nigeria's military and government have faced national and international outrage over their failure to rescue the girls seized by Boko Haram militants from a remote north-eastern school six weeks ago.

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.

Mr 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 The Associated Press 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.

More than 300 teenagers were abducted from their school in the town Chibok on April 15. Police say 53 escaped on their own and 276 remain captive.

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, some have been forced to marry their abductors and that some may have been carried across borders into Chad and Cameroon.

Boko Haram - the nickname means "Western education is sinful" - believes Western influences have corrupted Nigerian society and want an Islamic state under strict Shariah law, though the population 170 million people is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims.

Press Association

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